Mexican pirates shoot American on Falcon Lake; Update I: Dispute over what happened, Texas Governor Rick Perry steps in; Update II: Mexican government’s search efforts hampered by cartel threats; Update III: Mexico has indentified two suspects; Update IV: Mexican official investigating shooting is killed; Update V: Mexico’s search for Hartley suspended, shooting possibly case of mistaken identity; Update VI: Texas sheriff not trusting of Mexico’s investigation; Update VII: No progress, Tiffany Hartley goes home to Colorado

Posted on October 1, 2010


What was it that our Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security said last week?  I believe it was something about the border now being secure and we should move on to immigration reform.

I wonder what she has to say about this:

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Texas officials renewed warnings Friday about pirates marauding on a U.S.-Mexico border lake after a Colorado tourist was gunned down in Mexican waters while his wife dodged bullets and raced her Jet Ski back to American soil. (emphasis mine)

Search teams combed the U.S. side of Falcon Lake for David Michael Hartley, 30, whose wife told police he was shot in the back of the head Thursday after being ambushed by gunmen on boats.

The gunmen are suspected pirates who have turned Falcon Lake, a water-skiing and bass fishing hotspot down the border from Laredo, into uneasy waters for fishermen and boaters. There have been at least five reported run-ins with pirates on the lake this year, though prior holdups had never been deadly. (emphasis mine)

The man is believed to have been killed after being shot in the back of the head, but his body has not been recovered.  There is no indication that Mexican authorities are even searching for him on their side of the border. 

The couple had apparently crossed into Mexican waters to sightsee and “to take pictures of a famous church in Old Guerrero.”  On their way back they saw “armed gunmen on boats” approaching and they tried to flee back to U.S. waters.  Both she and her husband were shot at and he was hit in the back of the head.  She tried to circle back to retrieve her husband but the gunfire was too much to risk.

The border is secure, Secretary Napolitano?

The shooting led Texas DPS to again urge boaters to stay on the U.S. side of the 60-mile lake, five months after issuing its initial advisory following three pirate attacks.

But state Rep. Aaron Pena, a south Texas lawmaker briefed on the pirates earlier this year, said it has become dangerous enough to stay off the lake altogether.

“I wouldn’t do it,” Pena said. “When I go out there I have all the protection Texas can provide. But the average fisherman doesn’t have that.”

Pena said he has no doubts the pirates are working with Mexico’s drug gangsters. The cartels that control the area wouldn’t let the pirates operate otherwise, he said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the shooting underscores the need for the federal government to further secure the border.

“It’s really become substantially worse in the last 18 months with the drug cartels having almost free rein,” Perry said Friday in Austin. “This is about our citizens, on both sides of the borders, safety.” (emphasis mine)

Secure?  I don’t think so.  The longer the U.S. government refuses to take the problem seriously the more dangerous the situation becomes.  Until then, it looks as if this will be  another area on the border, just like some in Arizona,  that will effectively be off limits to our citizens for their own safety.

UPDATE I:

As news of this story has made it into the main stream media, there is a controversy brewing.  Mexican authorities are questioning whether the incident took place as Mrs. Hartley claims it did.  Part of the reason: neither the body nor the Jet Ski Hartley was riding has been found.

Texas Governor, Rick Perry, is also stepping in and calling on Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon for reassurance that the Mexican government will actively aid in the recovery of Mr. Hartley’s body.

UPDATE II:

News reports now say that the Mexican government is claiming it is doing all it can in search and recovery efforts of David Hartley’s body, but their efforts have been slowed because of possible drug cartel threats:

ZAPATA, Texas | A search for a missing American tourist presumably shot and killed by Mexican pirates on a border lake has been thwarted by threats of an ambush from drug gangs, U.S. officials said Thursday.

U.S.Rep. Henry Cuellar told reporters Mexican authorities are doing everything they can to find David Hartley‘s body while trying to keep their own crews safe.

“When darkness was falling [Wednesday evening], they got word that there might be an ambush,” Mr. Cuellar said. “People that are trying to do their job on the Mexican side are facing a risk, they’re right inside the hornets’ nest … they had to suspend the search.”

That part of Tamaulipas state is overrun by violence from a turf battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zeta drug gang, made up of former Mexican special forces soldiers, and both are battling the Mexican military.

Texas Governor Rick Perry says the threats from cartels are no excuse not to continue the search efforts.  Of course, he’s right.  The Mexican government’s predicament of abandoning the search due to threats by criminals only leads points to the fact that they are not in control of certain areas of their country.  With the number of other reports of run-ins with the cartels in the same area, it also leads credence to Tiffany Hartley’s story.  These drug cartels are the ones who run the show.

UPDATE III:

Today, Mexican officials have named two suspects in the alleged shooting of David Hartley.  Their names are Juan Pedro Saldivar-Farias and Jose Manuel Saldivar-Farias.  They are not in police custody and are being sought.

UPDATE IV:

A Mexican police commander investigating the alleged shooting and subsequent disappearance of David Hartley has been killed.  Officials say they don’t know how, or the reason for the murder.  More information on the killing of the police commander investigating the disappearance:  he was decapitated and his head was left in a suitcase outside a Mexican army base.

UPDATE V:

Mexico has suspended its search for David Hartley as of today (10/14/10).  

The current theory  suggests that the shooting could have been a case of mistaken identity.  The Hartley’s had recently moved to Texas from Mexico and their trailer still had a Mexico license plate from an area of a rival drug cartel to the one operating in the Lake Falcon area.  The theory proposes that pirates or some persons involved with the local drug cartel may have thought the Hartleys were from the rival cartel and were spying in the area. More information here.

UPDATE VI:

A Texas sheriff is now speaking out about his distrust in the continuing  investigation Mexico is conducting in the search for David Hartley. 

From USA Today:

The Texas sheriff leading the U.S. investigation into the fatal shooting of an American man said Mexican officials are trying to discourage the victim’s wife from pushing for a fuller inquiry.

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo “Sigi” Gonzalez said Sunday that Tiffany Hartley was subjected to 12 hours of questioning by Mexican investigators Friday in an effort to “intimidate and discourage her from doing anything.”

He said the questions asked by Mexican investigators were not aimed at resolving the Sept. 30 incident, when Hartley says her husband, David, was shot by Mexican pirates. His body has not been recovered.

“It’s wrong. It makes no sense,” Gonzalez said. He said he received an account of the meeting from U.S. officials who attended the session in McAllen, Texas.

Mexican officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Gonzalez’s account contradicts a statement released Saturday by the Mexican attorney general’s office. It said Hartley’s wife provided new information about the Jet Ski outing on Falcon Lake, which spans the U.S.-Mexican border.

“Mrs. Hartley provided valuable information that will allow federal investigations to continue,” the Mexican government’s statement said.

Gonzalez said the gunmen are believed to be members of the violent Zetas drug cartel.

Last week, the Mexican inquiry into the Hartley shooting was shaken when the severed head of the commander in the case, Rolando Flores Villegas, was found.

Gonzalez said Villegas’ killing is one of the reasons Mexican authorities do not want to proceed with the investigation.

During the questioning Friday, Gonzalez said, Mexican investigators asked Hartley to participate in a re-enactment of the incident.

Gonzalez said the request was inappropriate because it posed a clear risk to Hartley’s safety.

“She’s never hinted at not cooperating with them,” he said. “But she’s not going to go do that, and you can’t blame her.”

“They don’t want to investigate this,” Gonzalez said. “Their position is, ‘We hope we can discourage her enough so that she won’t continue to go forward with it.’ “

Curiouser and curiouser.  It’s looking like the Mexican government would just like this whole story to go away.  Since this is an international incident, why is our federal government not involved in this investigation?  Where is Janet Napolitano?

UPDATE VII:

No progress has been announced in the investigation and it is still active.  Meanwhile Tiffany Hartley has gone back home to Colorado.

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