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Medical examiner rules Tacoma ICE detainee died of natural causes

A vigil at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma for Charles Leo Daniel, who died earlier this month at the facility and who was held in solitary confinement for possibly close to 4 years.
Lilly Ana Fowler
A vigil at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma for Charles Leo Daniel, who died earlier this month at the facility and who was held in solitary confinement for close to 4 years.

Charles Leo Daniel died of natural causes while detained at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Tacoma, according to the Pierce County Medical Examiner.

The report released on Monday specified that Daniel died of hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). Hypertension is high blood pressure, and ASCVD is caused by plaque buildup in arterial walls.

Daniel, a 61-year-old immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, was first found dead on March 7. He was held in solitary confinement for close to four years, one of the longest stays in isolation at any immigration facility in the U.S. The United Nations regards solitary confinement of more than 15 consecutive days as a form of torture.

ICE’s detainee death report, which is required by Congress, noted Daniel had asked to be isolated. It also details Daniel’s many medical and psychiatric issues. He heard voices and had visual hallucinations. He had delusions of being electronically harassed and people putting spirits on him, the report said. He also often refused to take medications.

The Washington state Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Industries have repeatedly tried to inspect the ICE facility in Tacoma but have not been allowed in. In March, a federal district court sided with the private prison company that runs the facility – GEO Group. The judge’s preliminary ruling said the new state law meant to allow inspections at the facility is unconstitutional and violates the Supremacy Clause, which dictates certain federal laws take priority over state rules.

ICE first took Daniel into custody in 2020, after he served a roughly 16-year sentence for second-degree murder. He was also held in solitary confinement for the majority of his time at Washington state prisons.

Maru Mora Villalpando, of the activist group La Resistencia, which has long fought for the end of ICE detention, said the medical examiner's report was incomplete with a bare bones conclusion.

"This report does not reflect the life that GEO and ICE decided Mr. Daniel would live his last four years of life under their custody," Villalpando said in a statement. "There should be a detailed explanation of the illnesses listed. GEO and ICE are responsible for the health and wellbeing of those that end up under their custody, and in this case, those in solitary confinement."

In 2018, another man died by suicide while being held in solitary confinement at the Tacoma ICE facility. According to a 2020 report by the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, the Tacoma ICE facility holds people in solitary longer on average than any other immigration detention center in the country.

South Sound 911 has denied public records requests asking for documents and audio pertaining to Daniel's death because there is, according to the agency, still an active investigation.

Updated: June 11, 2024 at 10:33 AM PDT
Updated with more information about ICE’s detainee death report.
Updated: June 10, 2024 at 1:55 PM PDT
Updated to include comment from La Resistencia.
Lilly Ana Fowler covers social justice issues investigating inequality with an emphasis on labor and immigration. Story tips can be sent to