Man Dies in Custody at U.S. Border Crossing

A man died in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents after crossing into the U.S. on Christmas Eve, officials said Thursday.

The man, identified only as a 40-year-old, used the pedestrian crossing at the San Ysidro Port of Entry before 7 p.m. Wednesday. A records check revealed the man should be considered armed and dangerous, according to the CBP, so they escorted him to a security office. 

During the secondary inspection, agents say they gave the man a pat down, seized heroin from him and realized he was wanted on a felony warrant.

As the man was left in front of the security desk, he allegedly jumped over a counter and attacked two officers.

Federal officials say they used a Taser to control the man.

When the man became unresponsive and stopped breathing just after 7 p.m., agents say they began CPR and called for paramedics.

Paramedics performed CPR on the patient and took him to Sharp Chula Vista where he was pronounced dead at 7:57 p.m., agents said.

Four CBP agents were injured and treated at a nearby hospital, according to officials.

Attorney Gene Iredale told NBC 7 Thursday that he believes video footage of the incident should ultimately be released to the public.

"That entire area should be covered, should be blanketed with video cameras which will allow government investigators or anyone else who is involved in an investigation to review exactly what happened anywhere in the point of entry," he said.

Iredale represents the family of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, whose case garnered national media attention when cellphone video surfaced showing border agents tasing Rojas five times while he was handcuffed, pleading for help. He died shortly after in 2010.

"It's very important when something tragic happens that there be transparency, and that's in the interest of everyone," said Iredale. "That's in the interest of the government." 

Homicide detectives with the San Diego Police Department will investigate the circumstances of the man’s death, as will the CBP's Office of Internal Affairs and the DHS Office of Inspector General. A San Diego County Medical Examiner’s investigation will determine his cause of death.

The man’s name has not been released pending notification of next of kin. The names of the agents involved will not be released at this time, officials said.

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