GBI: No foul play in death of ICE detainee in South Georgia

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GBI: No foul play in death of ICE detainee in South Georgia

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jean Jimenez-Joseph, a Panamanian national, had a history of suicide attempts, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was prescribed medication for it and had been institutionalized prior to hanging himself at the Stewart Detention Center in South Georgia. His family’s attorney said the authorities at Stewart should have known about those troubles. Nicole Marie Austin/CONTRIBUTED.

There was no foul play in the death of Jean Jimenez-Joseph, the Panamanian national who hanged himself in a South Georgia immigration detention center in May, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has concluded as part of its months-long probe of the case. 

“The cause of death — cause and manner — was suicide by hanging,” Danny Jackson, GBI's special agent in charge for the Americus office, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There was nobody else in the cell with him. Nobody assisted him in doing this.” 

The GBI did not investigate how authorities at the privately-operated Stewart Detention Center cared for Jimenez, who had a history of suicide attempts and had been institutionalized before the federal government took custody of him and placed him in solitary confinement for 19 days. 

Jackson said such matters are not within the scope of the GBI’s work. 

“We don’t do civil investigations. That is of a civil nature,” Jackson said. “We do criminal investigations.” 

In a prepared statement released to the AJC Wednesday, Jimenez’ family thanked the GBI for its “professionalism” and criticized officials at the immigration detention center. 

"First, those responsible for Jean's care and safety at Stewart knew of the serious medical challenges he faced, and the risks these conditions posed. Second, despite this knowledge, they failed to uphold the standards in place to protect and care for the most vulnerable people in their charge. And third, Jean's tragic death could easily have been prevented if these standards had been met. 

"While many unanswered questions remain, these three things are now clear,” the statement continues. "We therefore reiterate our call for transparency and accountability from all entities moving forward.” 

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox has previously said his agency has medical practices in place for detainees who appear suicidal and that had Jimenez “expressed any kind of suicidal ideation, there would have been a specific medical reaction to that.” Cox has also said his agency is probing Jimenez’s death and looking into whether the authorities at Stewart knew about his history of mental health problems. 

“The specifics of that are all part of the investigation by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility,” he said.

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