Something is going terribly wrong with regards to the War on Weed currently being waged in San Diego, California. Being accused of marijuana possession, or any type of possession, certainly does not carry the penalty of torture, or worse, death.
Unless, that is, you are unlucky enough to be detained by a federal agency in America’s Finest City.
On Christmas Eve, 58 year old U.S. citizen Steven Keith was back stateside from his current home in Thailand, looking to visit with friends in his old hometown of Ocean Beach, in San Diego. He was stopped on Interstate 8 in Pine Valley, at the Campo DHS/Border Patrol checkpoint, known for its aggressive tactics by agents as they attempt to eradicate alleged drug running in the southern corridor into San Diego.
Agents allegedly found about three pounds of marijuana in Keith’s vehicle, along with “drug paraphernalia”, and trace amounts of meth. His vehicle was impounded, nobody was contacted on his behalf, and he found himself being thrown, much like Daniel Chong, headfirst into a holding cell to await further instruction – this time by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Before that could happen, however, agents witnessed Mr. Keith on the video monitors as he collapsed into a seizure. Paramedics rushed to his aid, but were too late, and a man with no history of epilepsy, and described to be in good health overall, lay dead on the floor for the high crime of allegedly carrying a plant in his car.
Steven Keith’s family, most of them having moved to Texas around the same time he jetted to Thailand, received word of his unexplainable death on Christmas day, but were stunned by the lack of information made available to them.
Steven’s sister, Janet Keith, a former police officer herself, knew all the right questions to ask, but was stonewalled by an inept public relations department at the Border Patrol, and a sealed autopsy report by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office.
She was told that they would have to wait 90 days for the autopsy results, and when she asked what her brother had been charged with, she was told that those charges had not yet been determined… even after he died under their watch. Frustrated, she asked, “How do you not know what you were going to charge him with?”
At that point, she was handed over to the official PR guy of the Border Patrol, a man named Pete Carr. But before she could get to her growing list of questions and concerns, Carr had one of his own. “What was your brother’s name?” he asked Ms. Keith to lead off their first conversation. In a state of disbelief, she fired back, “You are kidding right? How many people do you have die in your custody? You are the public information officer and you don’t know my brother’s name.”
The family is demanding answers, and an investigation has been put in place to determine how an otherwise healthy man, with no history of seizures, could pass away in such a tragic manner. Of course, it is the same San Diego County medical Examiner’s office conducting the investigation, and as such, they are not commenting, publicly or privately, about their findings until their investigation is complete.
Of course, this isn’t the first time in recent history this type of shit has gone on. Last year, on 4/20, UCSD Engineering student Daniel Chong was detained with a handful of others during a house party bust in San Diego. Chong was told he was being put into a DEA holding cell until they could get to him for questioning and explain the charges against him. Unfortunately, the DEA dropped the ball and forgot about Chong for the next four days – with no food or water, or even a window. When they found him, he had been drinking his own urine to survive. He had found a small baggy of meth hidden in the bedframe and had eaten it, which led to hallucinations telling him to extract water from the concrete walls. That search cost him most of his fingernails. Thankfully, he survived, and sued the DEA for a cool $20-million. They settled for $4.1-million earlier this year, and the DEA issued an extremely rare apology.
There is no settlement or apology that can bring Steven Keith back to his family and friends. What is needed now is a bright light shone upon the very tactics that could put a person like him under such scrutiny and duress as to cause his unnecessary and untimely demise.