2016-01-06 / Front Page

Federal inmate dies after fall at Willacy County Jail


A Mexican citizen kept at the Willacy County Jail for the U.S. Marshals Service died after he was taken to a hospital on New Year’s Day.

The death of the federal inmate has prompted an investigation as to what happened and the Mexican Consulate in Brownsville awaits further details.

The inmate, identified by a consulate official as Jose Gonzalez Rodriguez, fell on his face shortly after 4 a.m. Friday and was transported by a Willacy County EMS ambulance to Valley Baptist Medical Center where attempts to revive him failed.

The 32-year-old man was from Villa Hermosa, a city in the Mexican state of Tabasco, and was waiting for a deportation hearing, authorities said.

“We were told he had respiratory problems,” Vanessa Ortega, who is in change of the consulate department of citizens protection, said Tuesday. “We haven’t received additional information other than that he was taken to the hospital and was pronounced dead a while later.”

Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said jail staff were notified about an inmate having problems at about 4 a.m. Friday.

Based on other inmate accounts, he said the man apparently stumbled on something and fell on his face.

He said blood started flowing out of the man’s face and, upon interviewing him, nothing else seemed unusual.

Gonzalez Rodriguez then started sweating and took a shower.

A while later, the inmate said he wasn’t feeling well and was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Attempts to revive him failed and he was pronounced death later in the morning.

Spence said an autopsy was performed to determine the cause as a U.S. Marshal and a sheriff’s deputy stood by.

“The autopsy showed no trauma or bruises,” he said. “We are ruling out foul play.”

The sheriff said a U.S. Marshal showed up Tuesday afternoon to interview some of the inmates.

Meanwhile, Spence said the inmates staying in the same cell where Gonzalez Rodriguez fell were left traumatized and are getting counseling.

“We are perplexed because we still don’t know what happened,” he said. “What a way to start the new year!”

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