Teenagers often make poor decisions. Adults should have enough sense to protect teens from doing something potentially deadly. That was not the case with two United States Custom and Border Protection officers four years ago, who basically caused the death of a 16 year old boy attempting to bring liquid methamphetamine into the United States. The teen told the officers at the San Ysidro entry point that the two bottles he was carrying contained apple juice. T
he officers then gestured to the teen to drink the liquid to prove he wasn’t lying. The teenager took four sips, started screaming, convulsing and sweating profusely, and died two hours later. A video of the event, which took place in November 2013, shows the entire encounter. Although the teenager’s family eventually received a $1 million settlement from the U.S. government in a suit against the two officers and the government, neither officer was disciplined after an internal investigation. Both are still employed by the USCBP.
Coerced and Intimidated
Tijuana, where the youth lived, is a hotbed of drug cartel activity. These cartels often enlist teens to carry drugs across the border for quick cash. The cartels also learn about these young people’s families, so refusing to make these border crossings threatens the lives not only of the carriers but their loved ones. The teenager had his passport and border crossing card with him that night.
When he was stopped by a border protection officer and sent on to the two pair who later made him drink the liquid, it is obvious from the video that those two officers did not use their test kits on the contents. It is not clear the teen whether the teen had any idea what the bottles actually contained. What is known from his autopsy is that the four sips he took were equivalent to 100 times the usual amount of methamphetamine consumed by an addict.
The lawsuit against the border protection officers alleged the boy was “coerced and intimidated” into drinking the substance, even though they suspected it was deadly. Had they used their test kits on the contents, the results would have been available within three minutes. Instead, the teenager drank the liquid and died in a horrible way.
If the border protection officers had arrested the teen, he would have likely been sentenced to serve time in a juvenile facility. He had no previous record. While he did something wrong, it is because of the poor judgment of two adult authority figures that he is dead.
Contact an Attorney
If your loved one has suffered a wrongful death because of another party’s negligence, you need the services of an experienced wrongful death attorney. No amount of money can bring your loved one back or assuage your grief, but your lawsuit may save another individual or family from going through your terrible experience. Call the firm of Branch & Dhillon, P.C. today at 817-533-3430 for a free consultation, or email us.