Teen died after US Border officers told him to drink liquid meth

By @chelean on
Mexican teenager Cruz Velazquez Acevedo speaks with an officer while holding a bottle containing liquid methamphetamine at a U.S. border control point in San Ysidro, California, U.S. in a still image from surveillance video recorded November 18, 2013.
Mexican teenager Cruz Velazquez Acevedo speaks with an officer while holding a bottle containing liquid methamphetamine at a U.S. border control point in San Ysidro, California, U.S. in a still image from surveillance video recorded November 18, 2013. U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Handout via Reuters

A 16-year-old Mexican boy was inadvertently handed an immediate death sentence when two US border patrol agents instructed him to drink liquid methamphetamine. The officers believed Cruz Velasquez Acevedo was carrying an illegal substance disguised in the form of an apple juice and tea, and rather than conduct a field test as they were supposed to do, they told the teenager to drink the liquid.

Velasquez arrived at the pedestrian crossing at San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego in California, US, on Nov. 18, 2013. He was stopped at a secondary checkpoint after the officer at the primary inspection area became suspicious of him. Officers Valerie Baird and Adrian Perallon then asked him to place his bag on the counter.

In the video surveillance released by ABC News’ “20/20: Life and Death at the Border” documentary, Baird is seen taking out two bottles of yellow liquid from Velasquez’s bag. She shakes the bottles, seemingly sceptical that one of the bottles contained black tea and the other apple juice; the two bottles both have the same viscous, yellow liquid.

Instead of taking the bottles for a routine check, Baird and Perallon appear to have insisted that Velasquez drink the liquid to prove that it was indeed just apple juice. As seen in the soundless video, Baird pushes a bottle toward Velasquez. The teenager then takes a drink. Perallon appears to tell him to take another sip, and Velasquez again complies. Two minutes later, the officers tell him again to drink the liquid. Velasquez is seen taking a total of four sips from the bottle.

During the exchange, Baird and Perallon are seen chuckling and glancing at each other, which suggest that contrary to their subsequent statements, they knew that the bottles contained illegal substance. Both officers said under oath that they were not aware that the bottles had liquid methamphetamine in them and that they did not ask Velasquez to drink from them. Instead, they claimed that Velasquez himself volunteered to take a sip.

Velasquez started exhibiting signs that the drug was affecting his body. His temperature began to rise, and he had trouble standing still. The officers did not call for medical attention. Rather, they handcuffed him and took him into custody. Velasquez was then sweating profusely, shaking and struggling to breathe.

Perallon said later that Velasquez was telling him to hit him and that he “didn’t want to die.” The Mexican teen began to scream. His eyes were rolling and he was trashing violently. The officers carried him onto a gurney and handcuffed him to the rails. He was unconscious in the ambulance on the way to a nearby hospital. He was pronounced dead before 9 p.m., less than two hours after he first drank from the bottle. The medical examiner determined that his death was accidental.

The Velasquez family attorney, Eugene Iredale, acknowledged that the boy was wrong for trying to bring drugs into the United States. However, his offence did not warrant a death sentence.

“It wasn’t a death penalty case. To cause him to die in a horrible way that he did is something that is execrable,” he was quoted by the Washington Post as saying. “…Playing a cruel joke on a child is not something that’s justifiable in any way. They have test kits available that would’ve given results in two to three minutes.”

Iredale also cited testimony by another border officer. The officer apparently said that Baird told Velasquez to “prove” that the bottle contained juice.

The US has since agreed to pay the teenager’s family US$1 million (AU$1.25 million) in their wrongful death lawsuit against Baird and Perallon. The officers were not reprimanded or disciplined in any way and are still working with the US Border.

 

ABC News/YouTube