U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the death of a South Korean man being held at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, California on Sunday. According to a press release, 74-year-old Choung Woong Ahn was pronounced dead at 9:52 p.m. local time as a result of an apparent suicide.
Ahn was lawfully admitted to the United States in 1988 as a permanent resident. He was convicted of attempted murder with a firearm enhancement and sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Superior Court of California in Alameda County. Following his release earlier this year, Ahn entered the custody of ICE at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center on Feb. 21.
Efforts by staff and emergency personnel failed to revive Ahn who was found unresponsive in his cell on Sunday night. While the case is still under investigation, the preliminary cause of death appears to be self-inflicted strangulation.
Consistent with the agency’s protocols, the appropriate agencies have been notified about the death, including the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), and the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Additionally, ICE has notified the South Korean consulate and requested that they notify Ahn’s next of kin.
ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases. Fatalities in ICE custody, statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.
ICE says senior leadership will conduct a comprehensive review of the incident.