customs and border protection

CBP sued by family of migrant who died after falling from border wall

Joel Reyes Muñoz's wife filed the lawsuit, saying her husband's death remains a mystery

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The family of a man who died after falling from a border wall near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government.

Joel Reyes Muñoz's wife filed the lawsuit, saying her husband's death remains a mystery.

On Jan. 12, 2022, in his third border crossing attempt, Muñoz fell from the 30-foot wall between Tijuana and San Diego, but according to the lawsuit, he would have survived if Border Patrol had provided him with medical attention instead of deporting him. The lawyer says an hour passed between his fall and his death.

"That was his purpose, to go to the United States and be able to help his children because he wanted them to continue studying," Leticia Durán Martínez told Telemundo 20.

"These Border Patrol and CBP officers are in the process of deporting you to avoid the expense and time necessary for a person who has severe injuries," said Iredale, a San Diego criminal lawyer.

According to the lawsuit filed, Joel was transported to the Otay Port of Entry where he lost consciousness and stopped breathing.

According to his wife, Muñoz did not suffer from any medical conditions.

"There are many doubts and questions not knowing what really happened," Durán Martínez wondered.

In 2019 under the Trump administration, the height of the border wall increased from 17 to 30 feet.

Only 20% of Mexicans were hospitalized in 2022 as a result of their attempted border crossing and suffered injuries unrelated to the wall. About 80% suffered more serious injuries when falling from the border fence.

"It's not a crime to have [the wall] this height, it's cruelty, but technically when it's inevitable that someone is going to fall or be injured it's the obligation of this country to give enough life-saving medical care," Iredal said.

When Muñoz fell from the wall, Title 42 was still in effect, so Border Patrol agents deported immigrants immediately, but according to the lawyer, this is not a defense.

The lawsuit against the U.S. government accuses Border Patrol and Customs of negligence, interfering with Muñoz's constitutional rights by denying him medical care while in the custody of federal agents, and wrongful death, for which the lawyer is confident he can win.

"If it is an emergency and it is obvious that this person is going to die or suffer serious injuries, the government has an obligation to give him immediate care," he said.

After the accident, it was the Mexican Consulate that requested the U.S. authorities to investigate and made Iredale aware of the incident who got in touch with the family.

If he wins, this would be the first case where an immigrant who falls from the wall dies here because he did not receive immediate medical attention from a Border Patrol agent. The case will be in court in about a year.

Telemundo 20 contacted border patrol, but they cannot comment as it is pending litigation.

This story was originally reported by NBC 7's sister station, Telemundo 20. To read the article, click here.

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