The family of a man visiting Ocean Beach wants answers after he died in the custody of Border Patrol agents.
Janet Keith said her 58-year-old brother Steven Keith died in a holding facility on Christmas. She said they grew up in Ocean Beach before her brother moved to Thailand as an adult and the rest of the family moved to Texas.
He was visiting Ocean Beach for Christmas when Janet Keith got a phone call from the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office that her brother was dead.
“I just couldn’t believe it. It just seemed surreal. My aunt had just died the day before — my mother’s sister — and I thought this can’t be happening,” said Janet Keith.
Keith, a former police officer, said questions raced through her mind. She was told her brother was in the custody of Border Patrol when he died and the medical examiner had done the autopsy, but they couldn’t release the cause of death for 90 days.
She was then given the phone number of a Border Patrol agent.
“I said, ‘What was he under arrest for?’ She said, ‘We are still determining that.’ And I said, ‘What do you mean? How do you not know what you were going to charge him with?’” said Keith.
Keith was also told that her brother had a seizure, and agents saw what was happening on a monitor and ran into help. Keith said her brother had no history or seizures and was a healthy adult.
Keith was then told to call Pete Carr, a Border Patrol public information officer.
“He said, ‘What is your brother’s name?’ And I said, ‘You are kidding right? How many people do you have die in your custody? You are the public information officer and you don’t know my brother’s name,’” said Keith.
Carr told Team 10 they would not release a statement until the investigation was complete.
The lack of information has Alliance San Diego, a human rights organization, concerned.
“Border Patrol is under a whole lot of pressure to make sure their agents are properly trained and to make sure when cases like this happen information is properly given to the family,” said Christian Ramirez with Alliance San Diego.
Keith said the confusion is only adding to the family’s grief.
“We loved him very much and we are just shocked and want to know how he could be involved with the Border Patrol and what could have possible caused a healthy guy to die in police custody,” said Keith.