ICE detainee dies at Calhoun County jail; natural causes cited

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — A man being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has died while being held at the Calhoun County jail.

ICE identified the man as Jesse Jerome Dean Jr., 58, of the Bahamas. His family has been notified of his death.

He died around 11:40 a.m. Friday. ICE said he had been moved to the jail’s infirmary the previous day after he said he was unwell.

The medical examiner will perform an autopsy. Michigan State Police have been called in to investigate, which is standard procedure. ICE said it is also conducting a “comprehensive, agency-wide review” of the death.

County officials say Dean is not believed to have contracted COVID-19. The jail has dealt with outbreaks of the virus, including in the unit that houses ICE detainees.

“The individual in this situation was complaining of some stomach pain. He was treated on several different occasions and even X-rayed at a medical facility, and what had happened is it progressed to a point where EMS was called and at the point, EMS got there, he was still responsive, but he ultimately died at that point when they were trying to render care,” Christensen said.

ICE said it arrested Dean on Dec. 31, after he was released from a federal prison in Baldwin, where he had served 30 years for importing cocaine into the country, along with other related drug charges.

An undated courtesy photo of Jesse Dean Jr., his son Dexter and his ex-wife Thea.

Dean was awaiting deportation to the Bahamas; that process was ongoing when he died in custody.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class-action lawsuit concerning the medical care being given at the jail and the risk of COVID-19.

According to Senior Staff Attorney Miriam Aukerman with ACLU Michigan, so far 40 detainees have been released as a result of the litigation.

“We’ve had an expert inspection of this facility and it’s very clear that there are very significant structural problems with the kind of medical care that individuals are receiving and with the identification of people’s medical issues,” Aukerman said.

The jail says COVID-19 was not a factor in Dean’s death, but an official cause of death is still being determined.

“We need to see major changes to our immigration system to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” Aukerman said.

Aukerman said a release from ICE included an incorrect spelling for Dean’s middle name, listing it as Jermone rather than the correct spelling Jerome.

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