Cruz Marcelino Velazquez Acevedo was only 16 when he showed up at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego to enter the United States. As custom officials rummaged through his luggage, they pointed at two bottles of amber-colored liquid. The teenager insisted it was apple juice.
Unconvinced, the officials conducted some tests on the liquid, which did not turn up with any substantial results. Then, the officials decided to make Acevedo ingest some of it.
The teenager drank from the bottle. He took four sips in total before he fell to the ground, yelled "mi corazon" (my heart), and convulsed, according to a lawsuit filed by his family in a Californian federal court.
The incident took place in 2013 and the bottles contained liquid methamphetamine, a highly toxic liquid. The teen was placed under police custody and then taken to a hospital, where he died.
Newly released surveillance footage shows the officers smiling at each other and chatting while the teenager drank what they suspected to be a deadly liquid.
The video was released by the teenager's family via their lawyer, Eugene Iredale. Iredale argued the officers encouraged Acevedo to drink the substance, even when they knew it could be fatal.
"It's true that Cruz was doing something that was against the law. And that he did not have to be doing. That's a fact," Iredale told NBC.
"It's also true that they did not point their guns at him or physically threaten him but in a social context in which this occurred, they knew exactly what they were doing," the lawyer added.
Even as he screamed in pain, the lawsuit filed by his family alleges, he was not given medical help. Instead, the border officials placed him in custody before taking him to the hospital where he died a few hours later.
In 2014, the U.S. Attorney's office declined to press charges against the officers involved. However, the lawsuit against Customs and Border Protection was settled for $1 million this year in March by the victim's family.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency said it conducted a nearly year-long review of the incident and concluded in September 2014 "that no further action was warranted and the officers involved were not disciplined."
Not many share the same opinion as the agency.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Californian Democrat and member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, believes the actions of the officials were not only immoral, but also illegal.
An attorney, Alex Ozols, also told NBC the issue could easily have been resolved by a $2 test.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, U.S. Customs and BorderProtection/Handout