ABC news uploaded a video Friday showing how 16-year old Cruz Valazquez Acevedo was encouraged to take a drink of a deadly drug by U.S. Border Protection agents.
The teenage boy had just crossed into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico, when he was stopped at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.
Somewhere, on the other side of the border, he’d picked up two bottles of liquid methamphetamine.
Maybe he’d been offered a paltry payment by some dealer to carry the drugs to San Diego.
Perhaps Acevedo had hoped to make a personal profit reselling what could be bought for much less in Baja than California.
Nobody quite knows for sure what sorts of thoughts were going through the adolescent’s head when he tried walking into America.
What Acevedo did was tell Customs and Border Protection agents that the amber-colored substance in the bottles was apple juice.
Neither of the two federal agents believed Acevedo. Acting off the cue of a drug dog trained in chemical detection, Officer Valerie Baird asked the boy to prove he wasn’t lying.
Baird raised her hand and gestured for the boy to drink. Her colleague, Adrian Perallon, made the same gesture after Cruz hesitantly took a single sip.
Another, another, and then another.
Acevedo put the bottle to his lips and drank four times.
Within minutes, his temperature hit a staggering 105 degrees Fahrenheit, said a family lawyer. His pulse skyrocketed to 220 beats per minute, a rate twice that of a normal adult.
“Mi corazon, mi corazon!” Acevedo screamed, clutching at his chest in a desperate bid to fend off a painful death.
Less than two hours later, Cruz Valazquez Acevedo was pronounced dead in a nearby hospital.
The Washington Post reports that Acevedo’s family later won a $1 million settlement against the United States.
The suit named the government as well as the two Border Protection officers, Braid and Perallon, as defendants in a case of wrongful death.
The family’s attorney, Eugene Iredale, said there’s little doubt Acevedo erred by trying to bring drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border.
“But he’s a 16-year old boy with all the immaturity and bad judgment that might be characteristic of any 16-year old kid,” said Iredale in a conversation with Post reporters. “He was basically a good boy, he had no record, but he did something stupid. In any event, the worst that would’ve happened to him is that would’ve been arrested and put in a juvenile facility for some period of time…
“It wasn’t a death penalty case. To cause him to die in a horrible way that he did is something execrable,” lamented Iredale.
Despite the footage and having caused a death, neither Baird nor Perallon was disciplined. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility had investigated the incident and “determined that no further action was warranted.”
Attorney Alex Ozols told NBC San Diego that a Supreme Court case set a precedent allowing law enforcement to use certain tactics of intimidation to coerce a confession out of suspects.
“What happened here, it looks like their tactic backfired,” said Ozols. “They expected this individual to say, ‘Hey, there are drugs in here. I’m not going to drink it.’ He did start to drink it and that created a problem.”
Liquid methamphetamine is much more potent than its solid counterpart – often considered a precursor chemical used in production, its purity can reach 90%. Even in small doses, the substance can be deadly.
Ozols said Acevedo’s death could have been prevented with a $2 drug test.
The $1 million settlement won against the U.S. government, Baird, and Perallon went to Cruz’s parents in Mexico.