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  4. Death in Custody Statement: Guatemalan migrant drowns after crossing the border illegally near Rio Grande City, despite Border Patrols efforts to save him

Death in Custody Statement: Guatemalan migrant drowns after crossing the border illegally near Rio Grande City, despite Border Patrols efforts to save him

Release Date
Sun, 07/31/2022

On July 9 at approximately 4:07 a.m., a Border Patrol agent operating a surveillance camera system notified the local Border Patrol sector that a group of migrants was making illegal entry into the U.S., approximately one-half mile southeast of the Rio Grande Port of Entry near Rio Grande City, Texas, where the Los Olmos Creek flows into the Rio Grande River.

Three agents and a Border Patrol canine responded to the area. The canine handler and his detection canine encountered a group of four migrants. The group ran east and entered the Los Olmos Creek, which is an approximately 30-35-foot-wide body of water, surrounded by a steep embankment that drops into a muddy creek covered by very large reeds.

After they entered the water, two of the migrants swam across the Los Olmos Creek, one of the migrants swam back to the bank of the creek and was subsequently apprehended by Border Patrol. The fourth migrant, later identified as a male citizen of Guatemala, struggled to stay afloat.The canine handler detached the 15-foot leash from his dog, waded into the creek, and attempted to rescue the man from drowning by throwing the leash to him. Another agent held out a carrizo cane reed from the bank for the man to grab. A third agent used his flashlight to illuminate the area. 

A Border Patrol watch commander arrived, saw the other agents attempting to rescue the migrant, and then ran approximately 100 yards back to his vehicle to grab a rescue floatation device. The man was unable to grab either the canine leash or the carrizo cane and he sank below the surface of the water before the watch commander was able to return. 

Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility special agents interviewed the migrants involved in the incident. None of them could recall the man’s name, but all gave a similar description of his clothing and approximate age and recalled that he was a citizen of Guatemala. All of the migrants indicated they encountered Border Patrol agents and attempted to abscond. One of the migrants indicated she saw the man in the water struggling, and attempted to rescue him but could not. She also said that the responding agents tried to rescue him by throwing what she believed to be a rope multiple times, but the man ultimately went under the water and did not resurface.

CBP was informed by the Rio Grande City Fire Department on July 12 that on July 11 they recovered a male body near the mouth of the Los Olmos Creek. The recovered body matched the description provided by the other migrants. The man was identified by a Government of Guatemala identification card issued in his name and bearing his photo located on his person. CBP met with the three migrants apprehended at the time of the incident on July 13, and when CBP presented a photo of the decedent, all three of the migrants identified him as the man from their group.

This incident is being reviewed by the Rio Grande Police Department and the CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security’s  Office of Inspector General was also notified.

Last Modified: Jan 04, 2024