Ben James Owen, 39, died in ICE custody at a Florida facility on Saturday
A 39-year-old British man who died while in ICE custody at a facility in Florida has been identified, as it’s revealed a second immigrant has died while in federal custody in just two days.
Ben James Owen was awaiting trial on a battery charge from Daytona Beach on November 17, 2019 and was in the process for removal from the country when he died from ‘self-strangulation’ at the Baker County Detention Center on Saturday at 7.52pm.
Owen – whose friend has told DailyMail.com was a married father-of-two and worked as an electrician – had entered the country lawfully on July 23, 2019 and was allowed to stay until December 10, 2019.
But he was arrested by Port Orange police January 12 for felony aggravated stalking after injunction, false imprisonment, domestic assault and violating the conditions of his pre-trial release.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) served his notice for removal on the same day of his arrest and he was taken into ICE custody three days later.
Social media indicates he was married to an American woman named Tammy Jane (pictured) and had two children. One of them was in the UK and the other was born three months ago
He was found dead at the Baker County Detention Center at 7.52pm. A preliminary investigation found the cause of death was self- strangulation
According to social media, his wife Tammy Jane is from New York and resides in Tennessee.
A friend said he was in the process of getting documents to authorize his long stay in the US but planned on returning to the UK permanently.
‘He was working as an electrician in the USA and lived with his wife and baby Gia and had dreams of moving back to the UK eventually with his new family,’ friend, Ryan Gibbons told DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
‘He met his wife Tammy and got married a year ago. He was on the verge of getting his green card to stay in the USA and carry on working. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and devastating and doesn’t ring true that he would ever do this. We all miss him terribly and will never forget him.’
Owen was originally from Stourbridge in the West Midlands, UK.
Gibbons added that one of his children lived in the UK but his wife had only welcomed a baby a few months ago.
‘He was a kind, loving best friend of mine, a father of two girls; Bonnie Joy-Ellen Owen who is in England and is one year old and Gia Havana Star Owen in the USA that’s three months old,’ Gibbons continued.
‘He has two sisters and a mother and father and many, many friends who love him dearly. He was very funny and had a beautiful soul who would help anyone.’
Antony Grainger, who has been friends with Owen since they were five years old, told DailyMail.com: ‘He just didn’t seem the kind of person that would do that. Just had so much to live for. He was just so warm and funny, he had so many friends.
‘The last time I saw him he told me he loved me and that’s the memory I will remember – just a beautiful person.’
Of the charges Owen was facing, Grainger added: ‘That just seems totally out of character and not the person I’ve known all my life.’
He was arrested on a battery charge from Daytona Beach on November 17 and was awaiting trial for that. Then January 12 he was arrested for aggravated stalking after injunction, false imprisonment, domestic assault and violating the conditions of pre-trial release
A friend said he was in the process of getting documents to authorize his long stay in the US but planned on returning to the UK permanently
Owen became the fifth person to die in ICE custody since October.
But on Monday a 63-year-old man from Cuba became the sixth after he died in a Florida hospital.
The preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Back in December, Nigerian man Anthony Oluseye Akinyemi, 56, died in federal immigration custody, just days after he was convicted of a sex offense and assault in Maryland.
He was found unresponsive in his cell at the Worcester County Jail in Snow Hill, Maryland, according to a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The official cause of death was not immediately determined, but authorities believe Akinyemi took his own life by strangling himself.
Akinyemi had been charged with sexual abuse of a minor and was convicted in Baltimore City Circuit Court.
Anthony Akinyemi, 56, strangled himself in his cell at the Worcester County Jail in Maryland (pictured) in December, less than 24 hours after entering ICE following his conviction
Officials said he entered the US lawfully on a non-immigrant visa in 2017 but did not comply with the terms of his admission, leading to an immigration detainer being lodged against him in July following his arrest on the sex abuse charge.
At the time of his death, Akinyemi was in removal proceedings and was facing deportation back to Nigeria.
Under President Donald Trump, a number of people have been detained at record levels and, as of January, was detaining nearly 41,000 immigrants.
In August, nearly 55,000 people were in custody in private prisons and local jails across the U.S.
Despite Congress criticizing ICE’s health services, the agency says they spend more than $269million annually on those services alone.
In December 2019, House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed it opened an investigation into the health services of detained immigrants and demanded a series of documents.
‘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,’ they said in a statement.
- For confidential support in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.
- For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.