Separated from his wife and children, 39-year-old Marco Antonio Muñoz suffered a breakdown and killed himself in a jail cell, according to Border Patrol agents and an incident report filed by sheriff’s deputies obtained by the Washington Post.
The Department of Homeland security has chosen not to disclose the Honduran man’s death of apparent suicide with the public, but a copy of a sheriff’s department report states that Marco Antonio Muñoz, after being placed in a chain-link detention cell, suffered a mental breakdown, began punching the metal in the cell, and shaking it violently. He subsequently took his own life.
Marco Antonio Muñoz and his family, wife, and 3-year-old son, were taken into custody near the town of Granjeno, Texas, which is a popular crossing point for Central American families and teenagers. After taking the family into custody, Border Patrol agents told them they would have to be separated, which is when Muñoz “lost it,” according to one agent who spoke to the Washington Post under the condition of anonymity.
Muñoz did not attempt to assault Border Patrol staff, although he was “agitated,” and “had the look of a guy at a bar who wanted to fight someone,” according to an agent familiar with the matter. The agents had to use physical force to take the 3-year-old child out of Muñoz’s hands.
Border Patrol agents found a vacant cell for Marco Antonio Muñoz 40 miles away at the Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City. Shackled and handcuffed, Muñoz attempted to escape multiple times. Lastly, he was booked into the jail at 9:40 p.m. but remained combative. Guards checked in on the Honduran every 30 minutes.
“We had to get him out. Those cells are about as secure as a dog kennel. He could have hurt someone,” a Border Patrol agent said, explaining why Muñoz was placed in a detention cell. This is standard procedure, according to Border Patrol, and unruly detainees typically are taken to local jails.
The following morning, a guard who walked by the cell at 9:50 a.m. said he noticed Muñoz lying on the floor, unresponsive, in a pool of his own blood. A piece of clothing was twisted around his neck and tied to the drainage location in the center of the cell.
Paramedics arrived, but it was too late. Muñoz had died. The sheriff’s department said it attempted to contact Honduran authorities, but received no answer. An official at the Embassy of Honduras in Washington told the Washington Post that the ambassador was the only person authorized to comment, but he was not available.
Muñoz’s wife and son were later released from Border Patrol custody.
According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, over 10,000 migrant children are now in U.S. government custody, at 100 shelters in 14 American states.