Last March, the U.S. government settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of 16–year–old Mexican teenager Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, who died after border agents told him to drink liquid meth that he was attempting to smuggle into the country from Tijuana in 2013.
On Friday, ABC News shared a surveillance video of the incident that appears to confirm the claim by the family’s attorney that the two border agents, Valerie Baird and Adrian Perallon, were aware of the contents of the two bottles when they told Velazquez to drink the liquid. At least, the officers can see the liquid wasn’t apple juice, as Velazquez had told them. Baird and Perallon can be seen examining the bottles before passing one back to Velazquez and motioning for him to drink.
The officers later stated that they had been trained in identifying illicit substances, including meth, and they denied telling Velazquez to drink it.
The Washington Post describes what happened after Velazquez followed those directions:
The teen took four sips.
Then, he began sweating profusely. He screamed and clenched his fists.
In a matter of minutes, his temperature soared to 105 degrees, his family’s attorney said. His pulse reached an alarming rate of 220 beats per minute — more than twice the normal rate for adults.
“Mi corazón! Mi corazón!” Acevedo screamed, according to court records — “My heart! My heart!”
He was dead about two hours later.
An official report of the incident, which occurred at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Nov 18, 2013, stated that the teenager’s death was an accident. But as the ABC report makes clear, the officers acknowledged that testing methods were readily available to them that could have prevented Velazquez’s death.
The head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s internal affairs, James Tomsheck, told ABC that the two agents had violated protocol.
“If they truly suspected there was a controlled substance in the bottle,” Tomsheck told the network, “they should’ve conducted a field test.”
The surveillance video has prompted several lawmakers to criticize the agency for failing to implement adequate protocols, with California Rep. Zoe Lofgren calling the officers’ conduct in Velazquez’s death “immoral” and “illegal.”
“While there is no excuse for attempting to bring illicit substances into the country, it is absolutely clear from the video that there were numerous failures in judgment and procedure that led to the senseless death of a 16-year-old boy. CBP must ensure that such a tragedy never occurs again,” Missouri Rep. Bennie Thompson told the network.
The U.S. government agreed to pay Velazquez’s family $1 million to settle the wrongful death lawsuit. The officers, meanwhile, have remained on the job.
Watch ABC’s report: