Family of inmate who died in Bexar County jail wants answers

Danny Puente, 55, collapsed while being processed for release

SAN ANTONIO – Relatives of Danny Puente, a 55-year-old inmate who died at the Bexar County jail, are anxiously waiting for information about the cause of his death.

"The only thing we know he got arrested Saturday at noon," said his brother, Edward Puente. "We were making bond … then they came and told us that he died."

Danny Puente collapsed late Wednesday night while he was undergoing the process for being released from jail, according to Paul Berry, spokesman for the Bexar County Sheriff's Office.

In a middle-of-the-night news conference, Berry said the inmate had spent three days in the administrative detention unit of the jail, an area where he did not have contact with other inmates.

Puente had been booked into jail on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, he said.

"He was taken to a room where he could change into the clothes he wore coming into the jail," Berry said. "After giving the inmate a few minutes to change, the detention officer went back to check on him, and that is when he found Mr. Puente unconscious and unresponsive."

Berry said the detention officer immediately called for medical assistance, but paramedics soon determined that Puente was dead.

At his West Side home Thursday morning, Edward Puente recalled memories of his older brother.

He said Danny was one of 15 children in their family, as well as a husband, father and grandfather.

"Yeah, he had his past, but we're only human and we all make mistakes, right?," he said, referring to his brother's long criminal history.

Records show Danny Puente had arrests dating back to the 1970s, including a 1989 case in which he was convicted of assaulting two jail guards.

Edward said in recent months, his brother appeared to be changing his ways.

His death, he said, has left his family with a lot of questions.

"Hopefully, my family will look into the matter, hire an attorney or something," he said.

Berry said the sheriff's office takes all inmate deaths seriously, and will be thoroughly investigating this one.

He said that includes reviewing surveillance video from the jail.

Berry said the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office would be conducting an autopsy.

Shortly before noon Thursday, an employee of that office declined to reveal whether it had been completed, saying that the release of that information was pending notification of next of kin.

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