Fentanyl overdose kills Mexican national in Downtown El Paso jail

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EL PASO, Texas – A Mexican national imprisoned at the El Paso County Detention Facility died from a fentanyl overdose in June, according a custodial death report submitted to the Texas Attorney General.

“As this case involves federal inmates who are regularly transferred from various detention facilities, we cannot release any information without approval of the responsible federal agency,” a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said. “More specifically, information related to a detainee held on behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot be released pursuant to 8 CFR § 236.6.”

Fernando Candelas Serna, 21, was found with vomit on his mouth while laying on a top bunk in his jail cell, the document states. Guards at the Downtown jail were alerted about Candelas’ condition from another inmate around 4 a.m. on June 30.

An hour later, Candelas was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A report by the El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Candelas’ death was caused by fentanyl toxicity. And, his death was ruled an accident.

The medical examiner’s office ordered a toxicology report to review Candelas’ system. The study found 7.9 milliliters of fentanyl from a blood sample.

It is unclear how Candelas obtained access to the powerful opioid commonly found in counterfeit pills. And, the sheriff’s office did not answer if the case is being investigated.

Candelas was admitted into the El Paso County Detention Facility on March 9, 2021 by the U.S. Border Patrol, according to county records. The federal government has an agreement with the county to house federal detainees inside the detention facility.

A court filing with the U.S. Western District of Texas says Candelas attempted had a history of crossing into the United States. At the age of 15, Candelas had tried crossing into the United States in Arizona.

A filing with the court says he had voluntary returned to Mexico five times before being apprehended in Douglas, Arizona. He’d also been deported from the U.S. in 2019 after trying to cross the border in Del Rio, Texas.

At the age of 16, he was charged with marijuana-transport or sale and sentenced to an 18-month stay in prison. And, two years later, a federal court in New Mexico sentenced him to an 8-month stay in prison for trying to reenter the United States.

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