Factors in the Killing of the Mexican Investigator in Lake Disappearance

Mexican authorities say the killing of Mexican police investigator Rolando Flores (Commander of state investigators in Ciudad Miguel Aleman) who was part of the team investigating the disappearance of Texan David Hartley while vacationing with his wife on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake, is not related to the investigation. Hartley's wife said they were attacked by pirates who shot and killed him.

Mexican authorities say Flores "was making further inquiries in New Ciudad Guerrero, which have nothing to do with the death of David Hartley, when he was killed."

Nor has Mexico confirmed the Flores "decapitation" story. That information stems from Zapata County, TX Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez (who gave it to the state congressman who tweeted it.) Mexican authorities will only say he was assassinated, and they don't know how.

According to a Texas local ABC News station, over the weekend, Flores met with them, gave them documents identifying two potential suspects, brothers who allegedly are with the Zetas drug cartel, and said the hunt for the pair was stepping up. [More...]

Gonzalez identified the victim as homicide investigator Rolando Armando Flores Villegas. This is the same investigator who delivered documents to a CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew over the weekend in Reynosa. He also provided our crew with information about two Mexican brothers, alleged Zeta Cartel members, suspected of involvement in the alleged murder of David Hartley.

...[Flores]Villegas said Juan Pedro and Jose Manuel Saldivar Farias are suspected members of the Zeta drug cartel, wanted criminals, and members of a pirate gang that has been terrorizing boaters on Falcon Lake and residents of a nearby town.

The Tamaulipas State Police Commander Juan Carlos Ballesteros gave similar information to a Spanish network over the weekend.

According to research conducted in coordination between the sheriff of Zapata, Texas, Sigifredo González and the group leader of the Ministerial Police Miguel German, Tamaulipas, Juan Carlos Ballesteros, those responsible were already identified as Juan Pedro Zaldivar Farias alias "The 27 "and José Manuel Zaldívar Farias alias" El 31 ".

Mexican prosecutors quickly shut down the report, to no avail. Why would Flores be killed? Perhaps because he (and the police chief) gave the information to the media. How would anyone know about it? Because the media published it. More here.

A groundswell of media criticism, mostly from right-wing politicians in the U.S., accused Mexico of not seriously investigating the disappearance. Did the Mexican police feel backed into a corner and decide to divulge specifics to the media to refute the accusation and preserve their reputations? If so, it was an unwise response that may have resulted in Flores' murder. The details and names should have been kept from the public until an arrest was made.

From tonight's KRGV KRGV TV article, on the Texas sheriff's belief as to what happened (Again, he's the source of the decapitation story):

" I would assume he was killed because he was either trying to assist in the rescue operation or search operation, or because he may have provided some documents to the media, from what I understand," Gonzalez said.

The news station seems to tout its having received and published the info from Flores (Villegas) at the same time or shortly after the Mexican station got the info from Ballesteros:

The Mexican brothers were named as suspects in the Sept. 30 reported deadly shooting of David Hartley on Falcon Lake. ... Villegas provided CHANNEL 5 NEWS with two documents from the Mexican State of Tamaulipas. The documents contain information about one of the brothers, Juan Pedro, including his last known address in the Mexican town of Guerrero. Villegas told CHANNEL 5 NEWS the two suspects were not available, as it is often difficult to obtain photos of known cartel members. Villegas said the brothers had not been arrested as of Sunday evening.

...On Saturday, Tamaulipas State Police Unit chief Juan Carlos Ballesteros released similar information and documents to members of the Mexican media and CHANNEL 5 NEWS sources.

Criminal investigations should take place in private. It's trials that take place in public. If Flores' killing is related to the Hartley disappearance, the politicians trying to score off the Hartley family's misfortune, the media, mostly seeking a leg up on the story, and the unwise police response to the criticism, all share some of the blame for putting Flores at risk of being killed.

On the other hand, there may be no direct correlation with Flores' investigation of the Hartley case. There was a shootout in Ciudad Mier the other day between the Hartley team and pirates. Three pirates were killed. Maybe it was retribution for the pirate deaths.

...On Friday, Mexican officials came under attack on their side of the binational waterway during their own search operation, Gonzalez said.

Mexican Army Lt. Héctor Gerardo López Arellanes confirmed the attack occurred in Ciudad Mier as a convoy was on its way from Miguel Alemán to Falcon Reservoir to continue with the search. Three drug cartel members were killed, but no soldiers were injured in the incident.

Flores and his team had embarked on their journey on Wednesday:

The same authorities in Miguel Aleman who questioned the account of his wife, Tiffany Young-Hartley — who has said she survived the attack and who reported the incident to U.S. officials — departed for the reservoir at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The Tamaulipas State Police commander in Miguel Aleman, Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, took all his staff to aid in the search and assist the District Attorney for Nueva Ciudad Guerrero and Ciudad Mier, Marco Antonio Guerrero Carrizales ...t it appears public pressure — including Tuesday's media blitz by the Hartley family on national TV — prompted the redoubled efforts to locate the body.

One last thought: The police (and thus the media) use the words "pirates," "drug cartel" and "Zetas" interchangeably. I'm skeptical that all pirates around the lake are cartel members. Seems like they would have bigger fish to fry than to spend their time harassing or robbing tourists on a lake on a routine basis. And if it is an accurate representation, maybe the drug business isn't as lucrative as the Government wants us to believe.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I Have Yet to Hear Why they Where... (none / 0) (#1)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 09:49:41 AM EST
    ... jet-skiing at cartel ground zero.

    According to the media, this is the part of the border to avoid at all costs, yet these two felt comfortable enough to go across the border on jet-ski's.  

    Where is the right whining about the porous border and how watercraft are allowed to cross w/o intervention, where was the border security, or at least a camera or two ?  From all accounts these two were able to cross w/o a single witness.

    This lake would seem to be an obvious choice for crossing the border, either to migrate or to smuggle, and not a single witness including the people tasked with securing the border.  How much blow/crank could be smuggled on one jet-ski or in a small boat.  It's like this all went down in the middle of nowhere, yet I live in Texas and all lakes and reservoirs are overcrowded, but this lake has zero witnesses to a wild shootout and escape.

    It's not that I don't believe the woman, but they weren't tourists, they live there.  If the US Sheriff is too scared to go down there, why were these two comfortable with crossing ?  Don't they bear some burden for their stupidity, or is it all scary Mexican media hype ?

    Nothing in this story adds up.

    And can we get a cap on invoking the g-word right after your husband is murdered to like one a minute.  If god existed/cared her hubby would be alive.  She must have slipped the g-word in 20 times in 5 minutes.  God told her to get the hell out, where was god before this incident telling to stay on the US side ?

    Cartel ground Zero (none / 0) (#3)
    by Rojas on Wed Oct 13, 2010 at 05:45:01 PM EST
    And all this time I thought Falcon lake was Snowbird Ground Zero for about 3-6 months out of the year..
    Learn the damndest things here at TL.