The family of a 16-year-old boy who died from acute meth intoxication after Customs and Border Patrol officers asked him to "prove" that a liquid he tried to cross the border with was juice will receive $1 million. But the officers who urged him to drink the liquid meth that led to his death have kept their jobs.
Cruz Velazquez Acevedo attempted to cross the border into the United States at the San Ysidro pedestrian crossing in November 2013, according to court records. An officer searched the bags of the teenager, who appeared nervous, and found two bottles full of colored liquid that Cruz said were juice. The officer referred him to a secondary inspection, where he met officers Adrian Perallon and Valerie Baird. They told him to prove the liquid was juice by drinking from both bottles. He did, and became sick, shaking "uncontrollably," "sweating profusely," "beg[ging] for help" and crying for his family. He was taken to a hospital, where he soon died.
Perallon and Baird have different accounts as to who told Acevedo to drink the liquid and if they asked him at all (Perallon claimed in court documents that Acevedo, who by all accounts was visibly nervous as soon as he encountered a border patrol officer, took the initiative to drink from the bottles with "complete willingness to freely drink"). How mysterious that their memories of the event are so different.
Regardless of who urged Acevedo to drink the liquid, if anyone, there were tests and tools at their disposal — and the knowledge of how to use them — to determine if there were any drugs in the bottles without needing the teenager to drink from them. The officers were also aware that liquid meth was being smuggled into the country and what could happen to someone who drank too much of it. It's not clear that Acevedo, a high school student with no prior criminal record, knew that.
Last January, the case was settled for $1 million, which was reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune last Friday.
Acevedo's family did not want to comment on the case, their lawyer told the Los Angeles Times. In a statement, the CBP said: "Although we are not able to speak about this specific case, training and the evaluation of CBP policies and procedures are consistently reviewed as needed."
Baird and Pellaron have claimed qualified immunity because the incident happened while they were doing their jobs. They still have those jobs: The agency confirmed to the Union-Tribune that Baird and Perallon remain employed.
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