Mergensana Amar had been in ICE custody for almost a year, during which his asylum claim was denied by a court. He was scheduled for deportation this month.
The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the death of a Russian detainee Saturday was the result of an earlier suicide attempt, and wasn’t related to an extended hunger strike as claimed by an immigrant-rights group.
The cause of 40-year-old Mergensana Amar’s death was “anoxic encephalopathy,” or a lack of oxygen to the brain, due to hanging, investigator Ryann Sale said Monday.
The medical examiner’s investigation results backs up an account offered earlier Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Amar, who had entered the United States last December and sought asylum, died at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma after being removed from life support, according to an ICE statement. The Seattle Times initially referred to the detainee as Amar Mergensana, based on a statement from the Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDC Resistance), which first reported the death Sunday.
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Amar was taken to the hospital Nov. 15 after being found unconscious in his cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, ICE said. The agency’s medical staff had tried to resuscitate him after calling 911. He was admitted to the intensive-care unit, where he remained on life support until Saturday, six days after his brain activity stopped.
Amar was pronounced dead at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, according to the medical examiner.
Amar had been in ICE custody for almost a year, during which his asylum claim was denied by a court. He was scheduled for deportation this month, ICE said.
On Sunday, NWDC Resistance claimed that Amar had been on an 86-day hunger strike and had been kept in solitary confinement at the detention center. The group demanded an investigation by the state into Amar’s death.
ICE disputed the claim, saying that Amar started consuming food Sept. 19 and was taken off “hunger strike status” Oct. 16 after officials determined that he consumed enough calories. Amar was then placed in solitary confinement at his own request, which ICE calls “voluntary protective custody,” and remained there until the incident Nov. 15, Tanya Roman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said by phone Monday.
ICE had also agreed not to announce the end of Amar’s hunger strike because he had threatened to resume it if the agency made it public, according to the statement.
Before Nov. 15, Amar was in “good physical health” and had been monitored daily by ICE medical staff, the agency said.