US-resident Brazilian Irene Araújo had a little problem earlier this week. She was worried on how she would break the news to her mother back in Ipatinga, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, that her brother (and the old lady's son), Edimar Alves Araújo, 34, had been detained by the Rhode Island police for a traffic violation and that he might be deported.
She shouldn't have worried. Things couldn't have turned worse. Edimar is dead. He died while being held by immigration agents and Irene blames the authorities for the death accusing them of refusing to accept the epilepsy medicine she brought to the police station for her brother to take.Â
Edimar Araújo, an illegal immigrant, worked in a gas station in Milford, Massachusetts where he had lived for five years and had driven to nearby Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to visit his sister and a brother. He, according to friends, had the intention to move with them and work as a painter.
According to the sister's story, Araújo called her on Tuesday, August 7, around noon, soon after having been stopped by the police. He then asked her to bring his medicine, Gardenal, an epilepsy drug he had to take daily to prevent seizures.
Irene says that she tried twice to give the medication to the Woonsocket policemen but she was rebuffed with a "if he wanted the medicine he would ask for it."
After stopping Araújo the police of Woonsocket, a town just outside of Providence, found out that there was a 2002 deportation warrant against him. He was first taken to the city's police station and then handed over to the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents.
He became ill around 3 pm when already at ICE. Authorities called 911 and he was taken to the hospital where he died at about 4 pm.
Paula Grenier, a spokeswoman for the ICE, said that Araújo never complained about any health problem and didn't look sick during his trip from the police station to the deportation processing center.
According to her, they were told by the police that Araújo had diabetes and not epilepsy. Grenier informed reporters that an inquiry has already started to find out why the Brazilian man died.
"This all unfolded in a very short period of time," she said. "We began processing him. The situation deteriorated. He showed signs of physical distress."
Vera Dias-Freitas, an activist with aÂ religious community to which Araújo belonged said that the Araújo family is "devastated, frustrated… This was a preventable death. His sister tried to convince the policeman that her brother needed medical care, but he wouldn't listen to her. The person who denied him the medication denied literally his right to live."
Police have a different story. They say they only learned about Araújo's disease after he had been taken to the ICE detention center. They acknowledged that Irene came to the police station at around 3:30 after her brother had already left with the immigration agents.
Woonsocket Police Chief Michael L.A. Houle said officers heard from a family friend that the Brazilian was diabetic. When Irene came to the police station around 3:30 pm, with the medication, he had already been handed to the ICE.
According to the police report, Araújo was stopped in his Plymouth Breeze by Lieutenant Kenneth Paulhus, a 16-year veteran policeman, while driving the wrong way on Social Street. He could not show a driver license and was then arrested. Asked for his name he gave a false one. Only a fingerprint check revealed his real identity and the fact that he was wanted by the justice for 5 years.
Paulhus said that he had a friendly chat with Araújo while waiting for the ICE agents arrival. During that time, according to the officer's account, Araújo, in a halting English, talked about his life in Brazil and an accident on a roof, which left him some scars.
The officer said he never asked the Brazilian about his health, but he guarantees that the illegal man never complained about any ailment.
Brazil's Foreign Relations Ministry announced Friday, August 10, that the American authorities had informed them about the death and that the Brazilian government would help the family to get the body released and closely follow the investigations on the death of Araújo.