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Report details what led up to man's death in Aurora ICE custody

Melvin Calero-Mendoza, 39, died while in custody at the ICE detention facility in Aurora on Oct. 13.

AURORA, Colo. — It took 21 minutes for emergency medical services to arrive after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff called to report a man who was in their custody having a medical emergency, an ICE report says.

Melvin Calero-Mendoza, 39, died while in custody at the ICE detention facility in Aurora on Oct. 13. Until the new report, ICE had not released any details about what led up to his death. 

A bill passed by Congress in 2018 requires ICE to make reports regarding an in-custody death public within 90 days.

According to the report, on April 13, 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. 

His cousins described Calero-Mendoza as a good person who came to the U.S. in search of a better life. His family said his two children are ages 7 and 15.

The document says Calero-Mendoza didn't report, and doctors didn't find, any health problems during screenings in April and May. On Sept. 1, Calero-Mendoza told a nurse that he hurt his right foot while playing soccer 25 days before. He described the pain as stabbing, and said it got worse when he put weight on it. The nurse prescribed him pain medication and told him to stay off the foot for 48 hours, the report says.

On Sept. 12, Calero-Mendoza reported sharp pain in his right big toe. A nurse once again prescribed him pain medication and told him to apply ice and warm compresses to the toe.

On Sept. 29, Calero-Mendoza "reported severe pain and swelling to his right calf for the past two days," according to the report. The nurse once again prescribed pain medication and told him to elevate his right leg and apply ice over 24 hours. 

On Oct. 13 at 10:49 a.m., according to the report, a custody officer reported via radio that there was a medical emergency in Calero-Mendoza's housing unit.

Health staff responded to the dormitory. A nurse found that Calero-Mendoza was awake and able to talk, but was showing physical symptoms, including clamminess and foamy saliva at the corner of his mouth. The nurse applied an oxygen mask. 

At 10:52 a.m., the report says, the staff called 911, requested emergency medical services, transferred Calero-Mendoza onto a stretcher and took him to the intake area.

At 11:13 a.m., EMS arrived and tried without success to insert a device to help with breathing, the report says. 

At 11:15 a.m., they took him to University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. When he got to the emergency room, he went into cardiac arrest, according to the report. EMS personnel and hospital staff performed CPR and administered advanced cardiac life support medications for several minutes, according to the report. 

A doctor declared Calero-Mendoza deceased at 12:32 p.m.

An autopsy will determine how he died. 

"ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases," ICE said in a press release Oct. 14. "Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population."

ICE said it spends more than $315 million on healthcare services provided to people in the agency's custody.

The last time someone in ICE custody died at this Aurora facility was in 2017.

RELATED: Reports detail inadequate medical care at Aurora ICE Detention Center

RELATED: Nicaraguan man sought better life before he died in ICE custody in Aurora, family says


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