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Blood clot that killed man at ICE facility likely linked to earlier foot injury

An autopsy report from the Adams County coroner's office says the blood clot that killed Melvin Calero Mendoza was probably linked to an earlier foot injury.

AURORA, Colo. — A new report raises questions about the medical care a man from Nicaragua received before his death in ICE custody last year.

Melvin Calero Mendoza injured one of his toes while playing soccer at the ICE detention center in Aurora last summer. After weeks of his foot and leg swelling - he collapsed in the facility's kitchen and died on Oct. 13 of last year.

An autopsy report from the Adams County coroner's office indicates that a blood clot killed the 39-year-old and said it was probably connected to his earlier foot injuries.

The autopsy report indicated the injury happened around Sept. 4, while an ICE report says Calero Mendoza reported the foot injury on Sept. 1 but said the injury happened about 25 days earlier.

The ICE report says Calero Mendoza went to see the detention facility's nurse three times during the month before his death - and each time the nurse noted his exam as "normal."

The last time, on Sept. 29, Calero-Mendoza "reported severe pain and swelling to his right calf for the past two days," according to the report.  

9NEWS health expert Dr. Payal Kohli reviewed the autopsy report and said it shows that a blood clot from Calero Mendoza's leg went into his lungs, which stopped the flow of blood to his heart and caused cardiac arrest.

Kohli said the injury with the pain and swelling should have been sign to do an ultrasound to rule out a blood clot. If one was found, Kohli said he could have been treated with blood thinners. She said the treatment would have increased his chances of survival, but couldn't say with certainty that he would have survived even with that treatment.

Credit: Family of Melvin Calero-Mendoza

Family members, including his sister, Adilia Calero Mendoza question how the clot was missed. She released the following statement.

I want more answers from the Aurora ICE detention facility. How could they have ignored pain in a swollen leg and clear signs of a blood clot for weeks, which the autopsy says ultimately killed him?

My family wants to know how the signs of a blood clot were ignored by medical professionals within the detention facility despite his leg worsening and his visits to the medical clinic.

Early detection and prompt and adequate medical care could have saved my brother, an otherwise healthy and active father of two. We are so devastated.

According to ICE, on April 13 2022, Customs and Border Protection encountered Calero Mendoza in El Paso, Texas, and charged him with illegal entry into the United States. He was transferred to an ICE facility in California on April 15, and then to the Aurora facility on May 2. He appealed his bond amount and applied for asylum, but both of those requests were denied, the report says.  

Calero Mendoza is the third person to die in custody at the facility in Aurora.

Last year Democratic Congressman Jason Crow and Colorado's Democratic Senators sent a letter to the federal government calling for an independent investigation into his death.


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