Three and a half years ago, a Mexican teenager attempted to cross the border with two bottles of liquid methamphetamine. At the San Ysidro Port of Entry, he told US. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that the bottles contained apple juice. About two hours after the agents seemingly encouraged 16-year-old Cruz Velazquez Acevedo to drink from the containers, he died. Meanwhile Adrian Perallon and Valerie Baird – the officers, who according to court records asked the teen to prove the liquid wasn’t an illicit substance by drinking from the bottle – received no disciplinary action. In fact, they remain on the CBP. There is renewed interest in the case after ABC published a video that appear to show Perallon and Baird asking the teen to drink from the bottles instead of following protocol.
On November 18, 2013, Cruz crossed the border through the pedestrian entrance at about 6:40 p.m. He carried his passport and border crossing card. He was pronounced dead before 9 p.m.
Back in March, Cruz’s family received a $1 million settlement from the US government. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the CBP officers only tested the liquid after Cruz took several sips and started overdosing. Baird used a test that CBP hadn’t sanctioned. “They have many test kits … they are readily available,” Eugene Iredale, the lawyer for the teen’s family.
In video testimony, both agents confirm this much. Baird states that she didn’t even have to ask anyone for a field test. “You could get one yourself,” she said.
Before the release of the security footage, Perallon’s attorney, Barton Hegeler, said that though Cruz “acted recklessly” by drinking from the bottle – something “attributable to his age and poor judgment” – that his client didn’t employ “coercive or deceptive tactics… to exploit a suspect’s vulnerabilities.” However, the footage shows that both Baird and Perallon made hand motions that seemingly ask the teen to drink. Ireland has cited testimony from a CBP officer as proof that Baird asked him to drink it. Reportedly, Baird told the officer, “Oh my God, I told him to drink it, I asked him what it was, he said it was juice, I said, ‘Well then prove it.’”
According to the Washington Post, a CBP spokesman said the Office of Professional Responsibility looked into the incident and “determined that no further action was warranted and the officers involved were not disciplined.”