The family of a 16-year-old who tried to smuggle liquid methamphetamine into the United States will get $1 million from the U.S. government because the boy died after border agents asked him to drink it to prove it was apple juice.
According to The Washington Post, the government has agreed to pay the family of Cruz Velazquez Acevedo the money to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against the government.
In November of 2013, Acevedo was trying to cross from Tijuana into the United States with two bottles of what he said was apple juice through the pedestrian entrance of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, suspicious, said he needed to drink it to prove it wasn’t contraband.
He took four sips. Within minutes, he began screaming and clenching his fists. His heart rate was at a staggering 220 beats per minute and his temperature was at 105 degrees. He died two hours later.
According to the New York Daily News, Acevedo had a border crossing card, which allows holders to travel within 25 miles of the border.
Family attorney Eugene Iredale charged that Customs Border Protection officers Adrian Perallon and Valerie Baird “coerced and intimidated” Acevedo into drinking the liquid.
“I’m not prepared to say they knew for certain that it was going to kill him. … It’s obvious that they suspected from the beginning that it’s meth,” Iredale told The Post. “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.”
There is no question that Acevedo knew he was carrying drugs. Even Iredale admitted that.
“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,” the attorney said.
Regardless of how much coercion or intimidation went on, it’s reasonable to believe that Acevedo didn’t expect that drinking the liquid would kill him (else it’s hard to understand why he would do so). And as law enforcement officers, Perallon and Baird should have know the danger.
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