A recently released surveillance video recorded at the U.S.-Mexico border revealed that two U.S. border patrol agents ordered a teenager to drink liquid methamphetamine, which resulted in his death, and later provided false testimonies to avoid criminal charges. Although the U.S. government has agreed to pay the teen’s family $1 million due to a wrongful death lawsuit, both border patrol agents responsible for causing the 16-year-old’s death never received disciplinary actions or any other form of punishment for their actions.
Shortly before 6:30 p.m. on November 18, 2013, surveillance video recorded Cruz Velazquez Acevedo, 16, attempting to smuggle two plastic bottles containing concentrated liquid methamphetamine across the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Ten minutes later, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers escorted the nervous teen to a secondary station for further questioning and inspection.
Standing before CBP officers Valerie Baird and Adrian Perallon, Velazquez watched as Baird opened his bag and retrieved two plastic bottles containing a suspicious liquid with a strange color. Instead of immediately conducting a field test, Baird gave one of the bottles back to Velazquez and appeared to tell him to drink the liquid. Although the video did not capture any audio, Baird’s right hand briefly gestured toward the bottle before using the universal sign for “drink.”
According to their depositions under oath, Baird and Perallon denied telling Velazquez to drink the liquid meth while blaming the teen for causing his own death. But the recently released footage revealed that the officers ordered the teen to drink from the bottle four times, which resulted in his death less than two hours later.
After Velazquez took his first two sips of the liquid, Baird and Perallon clearly exchanged glances while laughing at the distraught teen. Appearing to order Velazquez to take two more sips, the border patrol agents continued their mocking laughter as the teen acquiesced to their commands.
“I never asked him to. He volunteered to, and I believe I gestured to him to go ahead,” Perallon falsely stated under oath on May 10, 2016.
Within minutes of drinking the highly concentrated liquid methamphetamine, Velazquez began sweating profusely as his body temperature increased to 105 degrees. With his heart racing, the teenager screamed incoherently before uttering sentence fragments: “son quimicos” and “mi corazon” and “mi hermana.”
They were chemicals. My heart. My sister.
According to the footage, the CBP officers waited 35 minutes after the initial drink before finally calling the paramedics. CBP Officer Nina Signorello later testified that Baird had been worried about losing her job minutes after the incident. Signorello testified, “Baird said, ‘Oh my God, I asked him to drink it.’”
“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 family’s attorney Eugene Iredale told The Washington Post. “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 he 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 that is execrable.”
Iredale continued, “It’s obvious that they suspected from the beginning that it’s meth. 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.”
Under testimony, Baird later admitted that she could have retrieved a field test kit immediately without requiring a supervisor’s permission. She blamed Perallon for suggesting the teen should drink the suspicious liquid, while Perallon blamed Velazquez for volunteering to drink when the video clearly shows Baird initially telling him to drink.
According to the San Diego medical examiner, Velazquez died at 8:57 p.m. of acute methamphetamine intoxication. Despite the fact that Velazquez had been ordered to drink four times from the bottle, the medical examiner’s report inaccurately stated that the teen voluntarily drank the liquid meth only once from the bottle.
Although the U.S. government later agreed to pay $1 million to the teen’s family after they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the two border patrol officers and the government, the CBP recently released a statement confirming that Baird and Perallon continue to work for the agency along the southern border. Under deposition last year, both CBP officers admitted they never received any disciplinary action for directly causing the death of a teenager.
According to my sources within the U.S. Border Patrol, undocumented immigrants are commonly referred to as “Tonks” because that is the sound a metal flashlight makes when striking their heads. These agents, who wish to remain anonymous, have also asserted witnessing their colleagues repeatedly withholding meals from detainees and beating them in areas where security cameras could not record the abuse.