The death of Marco Antonio Muñoz, 39, has not been publicly disclosed by the Department of Homeland Security, and did not appear in any local news accounts. But according to a copy of a sheriff’s department report obtained by The Washington Post, Muñoz was found on the floor of his cell May 13 in a pool of blood with an item of clothing twisted around his neck.
The Tribune notes that the majority of concerns surrounding the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy, whereby families crossing the border illegally are separated, focus on adverse effects the children experience.
Not much has been said about the parents – or government protocols for how to handle situations where the removal of children leads to mental-emotional breakdowns or violence.
According to Border Patrol agents with detailed knowledge of what occurred, Muñoz crossed the Rio Grande with his wife and three-year-old son on May 12 near the tiny town of Granjeno, Texas. The area is a popular crossing point for Central American families and teenagers who turn themselves in to apply for asylum in the United States.
Muñoz and his family were taken into custody and brought to processing station in McAllen, Texas, where they indicated they wished to apply for asylum.
Officials told the family they would be separated, and according to an official who spoke with the Tribune on the condition of anonymity, that is when Muñoz “lost it”.
“The guy lost his s---,” the agent said. “They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands.”
Muñoz was placed in a chain-link detention cell, but he began punching the metal and shaking it violently, agents said.
Though Muñoz did not attempt to assault Border Patrol staff, he was at that point considered to be “pre-assault” because he was so agitated. As one agent described it, Muñoz “had the look of a guy at a bar who wanted to fight someone.”
“We had to get him out,” the agent said. “Those cells are about as secure as a dog kennel. He could have hurt someone.”
Muñoz was transported to Starr County Jail in Rio Grande City, where he was placed in a padded cell at 9:40 p.m. and guards reportedly checked on him every 30 minutes until he was found the following morning.
A guard who walked by the cell at 9:50 a.m. said he noticed Muñoz laying in the center of the floor, unresponsive and without a pulse. The guard “noticed a small pool of blood by his nose,” and “a piece of clothing twisted around his neck which was tied to the drainage location in the center of the cell,” according to the incident report filed by the sheriff’s department that morning.
The sheriff’s department said it attempted to contact Honduran authorities who could reclaim Muñoz’s body, but they received no answer at a consulate. Muñoz’s wife and son were later released from Border Patrol custody, according to one agent.