The Department of Homeland Security and the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office are investigating the suspicious death of 58-year-old Steven Keith. Mr. Keith was arrested on Christmas Eve and later collapsed in a US Border Patrol holding cell.
On December 28, the Border Patrol announced that a suspect (who was unnamed in the initial report but identified as Mr. Keith by local activist group Alliance San Diego) was arrested at a border checkpoint on Interstate 8 on Christmas Eve after agents allegedly found three pounds of pot, paraphernalia and trace amounts of methamphetamine in his vehicle.
Mr. Keith was then transferred to the Campo Border Patrol station, where officials claim that later in the evening he became incoherent and unresponsive in his holding cell. Paramedics arrived but could not resuscitate Mr. Keith. He was officially pronounced dead just after midnight on December 25. The Border Patrol released no further details regarding the possible cause of Keith's unexpected demise.
Keith, who was a resident of Thailand and a US citizen, was allegedly driving towards a holiday gathering in nearby Ocean Beach when he was stopped and apprehended by the Border Patrol.
Alliance San Diego executive director Andrea Guerrero told NBC 7: "We are deeply concerned that yet another person has died in Border Patrol custody, this time a US citizen. The public and the family deserve a full accounting of what happened."
Guerrero also referenced US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introducing the Humane Short Term Custody Act (SB 1817) into Congress on December 12, which would establish minimum detention conditions in order to prevent such incidents. Ms. Guerrero added: "Unfortunately, this may have come too late for Mr. Keith. Alliance San Diego and our allies along the border will monitor this case along with more than 20 other deaths that have happened since 2010."