Security footage reveals how a boy died in US Border Patrol custody | News | DW | 06.12.2019
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Security footage reveals how a boy died in US Border Patrol custody

US agents had claimed that Carlos Hernandez Vasquez was found unresponsive after a welfare check. However, footage obtained by US media shows that he lay unresponsive for hours without Border Patrol officials noticing.

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, 16, died in US Border Patrol custody last May. Agents at the overcrowded quarantine facilityfor sick refugees in McAllen, Texas, said at the time that they became aware of the "tragic loss" when the boy was found with no pulse during a welfare check.

However, evidence detailed in a new report by US media has cast significant doubt on this story. Records show that the teen arrived at the facility on the afternoon of May 19 with bad case of the flu and a fever of 103 degress Fahrenheit (39.4 Celsius).

A nurse practioner reportedly told facility staff to check on him regularly and move him to a hospital if his condition worsened.

Footage disproves Border Patrol account

Security footage obtain by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, shows Hernandez Vasquez "writhing for at least 25 minutes on the floor and a concrete bench. It shows him staggering to the toilet and collapsing on the floor, where he remained in the same position for the next four and a half hours."

ProPublica has said that they were given the footage not by the Border Patrol, but by local police in McAllen, Texas. It shows how, around 2 a.m. the next morning, Hernandez Vasquez lay unmoving next to his cell's toilet. Border patrol records claim that he was given a welfare check once an hour until he was found unresponsive by a physician's assistant around 6 a.m..

There is no way to prove the former claim, as the Border Patrol has refused to provide the video taken between 2 am and 6 am. However, what is clear is that the boy did not move at all in the four hours, making it difficult to believe that welfare checks were conducted during this period, and that the body was not discovered by a US official as has been claimed.

Instead, it can clearly be seen in the video that around 6 a.m., Hernandez Vasquez's cell mate awoke, found the teen's lifeless body and called for help.

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"The video shows the only way CBP officials could have missed Carlos' crisis is that they weren't looking. His agony was apparent, even in grainy black and white... The coroner who performed an autopsy on Carlos said she was told the agent occasionally looked into the cell through the window."

ProPublica points out that legally, children are supposed to be transferred out of Border Patrol custody in 72 hours or less, but Hernandez Vasquez for some reason was held for 6 days.

 At the time, he was the sixth child to die in US custody in 2019. He was the only one to die at a Border Patrol station, as all the others were transferred to a medical facility when it became apparent they were in acute distress.

John Sanders, the Customs and Border Protection's acting commissioner at the time, resigned shortly after after the incident.

The inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security has launched an investigation into the boy's death but has not yet released any findings. The body was taken back to Guatemala, where 2,000 people attended his funeral.

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