A Honduran man who "lost it" when he entered the US and was told he would be separated from his family killed himself in a Texas jail cell, according to police and Border Patrol agents. Agents speaking under condition of anonymity tell the Washington Post that Marco Antonio Munoz, 39, entered the US illegally on May 12 with his wife and their 3-year-old son. After they were taken into custody and brought to a processing station in McAllen, Texas, where they claimed asylum, Munoz "lost his s---" after being told the family would be split up, one agent says. "They had to use physical force to take the child out of his hands," the agent says. Worried that Munoz might attack them, agents had the combative man transported to the Starr County Jail 40 miles away. He was restrained after trying to escape when agents attempted to put him in a van.
According to an incident report seen by the AP, Munoz was placed in a padded cell after arriving at the county jail and was found dead the next morning. He had strangled himself with a sweater he had looped around a steel grate on the floor, according to the report. Guards said they had checked on him every 30 minutes and saw him praying in a corner of his cell the same morning that he was found dead. Justin Tullius, a lawyer at the nonprofit Raices organization, tells the New York Times that they have dealt with other cases of parents who became suicidal because of detention under tough new policies introduced days before Munoz's suicide. "Families must be allowed to go through the process of seeking protection in the US together, without unnecessary and harmful separation," he says. (In May, border arrests exceeded 50,000 for the third straight month.)