The man on the other end of the line was trying to reach her parents, so she passed the phone to her father. He began to scream.
“Cruz is not with us anymore,” he told her. “They say he died trying to cross the border.”
Reyna refused to believe it.
“You’re lying,” she said. “He can’t be dead. I just saw him. He went to the gym.”
She travelled, with her mother, to view her brother’s body, likely crossing through the same border station where her brother had died.
“They opened the door so my mom could get in,” Reyna said. “I see [the] face of my brother. And then I realized everything was true.”
They told her, she says, that while attempting to smuggle bottles of liquid methamphetamine across the border, he had taken a drink from a bottle voluntarily.
She refused to believe that, too, but this time, she wasn’t alone.
The Velazquez family hired Gene Iredale, a San Diego-based attorney whose firm specializes in civil rights litigation, and filed a civil lawsuit against Baird, Perallon and the U.S. government, alleging that the officers “intimidated and coerced” Velazquez into drinking from one of the bottles and failed to “render timely medical assistance,” actions that “proximately caused his death.”
“What you see, I think, is a basic lack of compassion and decency toward a 16-year-old boy,” Iredale said. “Almost a delight that you would see in children who just pull the wings off flies slowly, a smile when he’s being asked to drink something and being put in this position.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to bring criminal charges and the internal investigation resulted in no discipline, but during their depositions, Iredale sought to highlight the contradictions in each officer’s tale to dissect what he called “the anatomy of a lie.” Under that pressure, the officers’ efforts to shift blame for Velazquez’s death…