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Border Patrol waited up to 26 minutes to call for help after U.S. man who died in custody showed "signs of distress"

Border Patrol told Congress that officials at a Texas station called for an ambulance "immediately" after a now-deceased man arrested near the border showed "signs of distress." But the local sheriff told CBS News his office, which dispatches EMS, didn't receive a call until up to 26 minutes later.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on February 4, Border Patrol agents arrested U.S. citizen James Paul Markowitz "as a suspect in an alien smuggling incident," according to a notice sent by the agency to Congress. More details about the 32-year-old Texan's arrest have not been released.

"At around 6:00 p.m., during processing at the Brackettville Station, the man began exhibiting signs of distress," the notification said. "EMT-certified agents immediately administered first aid and contacted local Emergency Medical Services as his health deteriorated. At around 6:40 p.m., EMS arrived and transported the subject by ambulance to a local hospital."

But according to Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, who reviewed his office's phone records for CBS News, the call for help didn't come in until 6:26 p.m.

Sheriff Coe said Markowitz was described as "sweating" and "fidgety," when the 6:26 phone call was made. He said his office dispatched an ambulance five minutes later, and that the vehicle arrived at 6:37.

Markowitz was brought to a hospital, where he later died. His cause of death has not yet been determined.

Until they were contacted by CBS News, some members of Congress — who received the statement because CBP is required to notify federal legislators — appeared to believe that CBP called for help at "around 6:00," and that it took EMS nearly 40 minutes to arrive. 

In a letter to Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf sent Wednesday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro and Immigration Task Force Chairwoman Linda Sánchez asked, "What help did Mr. Markowitz receive during the 40 minutes it took for EMT to arrive to the Brackettville Station?"
 
Castro and Sánchez wrote in their letter that they "remain troubled twenty-eight days after the death of James Paul Markowitz without any further details or relevant information to his case."

Informed of the sheriff's timeline that appears to contradict CBP's Congressional notification, Castro said, "If this account is accurate, it raises serious concerns about CBP's actions and decision to wait 20 minutes after Mr. Markowitz started exhibiting symptoms before calling an EMT."

"Such a delay could have played a role in Mr. Markowitz tragic death. That is why we need transparency and answers from the Department of Homeland Security. We will continue holding DHS and CBP accountable for all deaths on their watch," Castro said.  

In a statement to CBS News sent after this story was initially published, CBP said Markowitz first showed signs of distress at 6:05 pm and was immediately examined by a Border Patrol agent certified as an emergency medical technician. At 6:11 the agent took Markowitz outside for fresh air, but then decided Markowitz needed medical care. CBP said by 6:26 it was apparent that "more advanced care was required."

"It is devastating that besides all the efforts our EMTs and local medical professionals the life of the individual could not be saved.  We will continue to work with local law enforcement to identify the cause of death," said Acting Chief Patrol Agent Doyle E. Amidon.

The agency said an investigation into Markowitz's death is ongoing.

Camilo Montoya-Galvez contributed to this report.

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