crime

US car was targeted in Mexico ambush

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A senior U.S. official says there is strong circumstantial evidence that Mexican federal police who fired on a U.S. Embassy vehicle, wounding two CIA officers, were working for organized crime in a targeted assassination attempt.

Meanwhile, a Mexican official with knowledge of the case confirmed on Tuesday that prosecutors are investigating whether the Beltran Leyva Cartel was behind the Aug. 24 ambush.

The Mexican official said that is among several lines of investigation into the shooting of an armored SUV that was clearly marked with diplomatic license plates on a rural road near Cuernavaca south of Mexico City. Federal police, at times battered by allegations of infiltration and corruption by drug cartels, have said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity as officers were looking into the kidnapping of a government employee in that area.

"That's not a 'We're trying to shake down a couple people for a traffic violation sort of operation. That's a 'We are specifically trying to kill the people in this vehicle'," a U.S. official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. "This is not a 'Whoops, we got the wrong people.' "

Photos of the gray Toyota SUV, a model known to be used by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other U.S. Embassy employees working in Mexico, showed it riddled with heavy gunfire. The U.S. Embassy called the attack an "ambush."

When asked by the AP if the Mexican federal police officers involved in the shooting were tied to organized crime, the U.S. official said, "The circumstantial evidence is pretty damn strong."

Both the U.S. and Mexican officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomatic issue.

A federal police on Tuesday maintained the position that their agents fired on the vehicle by mistake, thinking it belonged to a band of kidnappers they were pursuing, according to a spokesman who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The U.S. State Department declined to discuss details.

"We will not comment on an ongoing investigation," said William Ostick, a spokesman. "This is a matter of great significance to both our countries and we will continue to cooperate with Mexican authorities in their investigation."

The Mexican official said one line of investigation is that members of the Beltran Leyva Cartel were interested in attacking the people in the car because some of their lookouts had seen them passing through the area and presumed they were investigating the cartel. It's possible they didn't know they were Americans.

The rural road near Cuernavaca where the attack took place is known territory of the remnants of the Beltran Leyvas, a once-powerful cartel now run by Hector Beltran Leyva since the Navy killed his brother, drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, in Cuernavaca in late 2009. Beltran Leyva was once aligned with Mexico's powerful cartel, Sinaloa, headed by fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. But the groups split in 2008 and continued government hits on Beltran Leyva leadership since then have splintered that cartel into small gangs warring for the area.

The CIA officers were heading down a dirt road to the military installation with a Mexican navy captain in the vehicle when a carload of gunmen opened fire and gave chase. The embassy SUV tried to escape, but three other cars joined the original vehicle in pursuing it down the road, according to the original navy statement. Occupants of all four vehicles fired.

"This is somebody with a powerful automatic weapon just unloading an entire clip, reloading, and continuing to fire at that same impact point, clearly with the intention of penetrating the armor and presumably killing those who are inside," the U.S. official told the AP.

Surveillance cameras in the area recorded two civilian vehicles chasing the U.S. Embassy SUV, the Mexican official said. So far Mexican officials have said only federal police fired on the SUV.

The two CIA officers received non-life-threatening wounds and have returned to the United States. The navy captain was uninjured and radioed the navy for help.

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Twelve officers have been detained in the case and are being held under a form of house arrest pending possible charges, and 51 officers have testified in the case. The FBI, which is leading the investigation for the U.S., has been in on interviews of the detainees. At FBI headquarters in Washington, spokesman Paul Bresson declined to comment.

A Mexican federal police spokesman said last month that the officers may not have noticed the diplomatic plates. The official said police focused on the unusual sight of a bulletproof sport utility vehicle traveling at high speed on a rural road, not on the car's distinctive diplomatic plates.

But Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said Mexican military sources have told him that "the attack was not an error," and "the objective was to annihilate the three passengers in the car."

"The same car with the same people had been going up and back (to the marine training camp) for a week, so perhaps some lookout who worked for drug traffickers informed the police, or the Beltrans" about the vehicle, Benitez said.

He said the federal police must have known that they were attacking a diplomatic vehicle.

"I don't think we're yet in a position to say definitively who did it, who paid them and why they did it," the U.S. official said. "We have been assured repeatedly in private and in public that the government of Mexico will investigate this to the end and provide a final answer as to what occurred, and I think our posture at this stage is we take them at their word."

Mexico's federal police agency, which President Felipe Calderon calls the most professional and highly trained of the country's law enforcement, has been hit with allegations of wrongdoing in recent months. In August, all 348 officers assigned to security details at the Mexico City International Airport were replaced in the wake of a June shooting of three federal policemen, who were killed by a fellow officer believed to be involved in trafficking drugs through the terminal.

Ten federal police officers were arrested in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez in 2011, accused of running an extortion ring.

Attacks on diplomatic personnel in Mexico were once considered rare, but the CIA attack was the third shooting incident in two years.

In 2011, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed and another wounded in a drug gang shooting in northern Mexico.

A drug-gang shooting in 2010 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez killed a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and another man.

That could be the result of the break-up of larger cartels, said Andrew Selee of the Washington-based Mexico Institute, noting that historically drug traffickers didn't want the attention that a hit on U.S. personnel normally brings.

"The lower level leaders in the cartels are making decisions the more seasoned leaders.
 

Border Patrol agent shot, killed on patrol in Ariz

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed and another wounded in a shooting early Tuesday in Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico line, according to the Border Patrol.

The agents were shot while patrolling on horseback in Naco, Ariz., at about 1:50 a.m. MST Tuesday, the Border Patrol said in a statement.

The agents who were shot were on patrol with a third agent, who was not harmed, according to George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing about 17,000 border patrol agents.

The shooting occurred after an alarm was triggered on one of the many sensors along the border and the three agents went to investigate, said Cochise County Sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas.

Authorities have not identified any suspects, Capas said. It is not known whether the agents returned fire, she said.

The wounded agent was airlifted to a hospital after being shot in the ankle and buttocks, the Border Patrol said. He is in surgery and expected to recover, McCubbin said.

Authorities have not identified the agents who were assigned to the Naco station, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson.

The last U.S. Border Patrol agent fatally shot on duty was Brian Terry, who was killed in a shootout with Mexican bandits near the border in December 2010. The shooting was later linked to the Fast and Furious gun smuggling operation.

The border patrol station in Naco was recently named after Terry.

The FBI, which also is investigating the shooting, did not immediately return calls Tuesday.
 

Teen’s secret tied to fatal crash

Lack of immigration papers prompted a Churchill High School student to flee a traffic stop on March 7, causing an accident that killed two people, his attorney said on Thursday.

Emanuel Herrera-­Gutierrez, 16, was sentenced to 75 months in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter for recklessly causing the deaths of Toni Lynn Bryson and Richard Lee Taylor. Defense attorney John Kolego said his client was not a legal resident of the United States, despite living here nearly all his life.

“He knew this dark secret that he had, that he was undocumented, even though he’d been here since he was 2,” Kolego said in an interview after the sentencing. “And when he was pulled over by the police officer, the fact that he was undocumented, the fact that he could potentially cause problems for his whole family, just led to pure panic. ... He just panicked and took off. Unfortunately that led to the deaths of two people and to two police officers being injured.”

Herrera-Gutierrez was driving his parents’ 2000 Nissan Maxima 90 miles per hour when he ran a red light at West 11th Avenue and Bertlesen Road and slammed into a vehicle driven by Taylor, prosecutor Dave Hopkins said at the sentencing. Taylor, 62, and his passenger Bryson, 43, were both ejected and died of their injuries at a hospital.

The Nissan then careened into a Eugene police patrol car that happened to be sitting at the red light, Hopkins said, injuring officers Kyle Evans and Joshua Sundquist. The impact caused the Nissan’s engine to catch fire, and both jumped out to render aid, the Lane County deputy district attorney said.

“Officer Sundquist, with one (injured) arm dangling, gets a fire extinguisher to put out the fire,” Hopkins said.

Herrera-Gutierrez was initially unresponsive when Evans tried to check on him, but when the teen came to, he tried to start the car again instead of trying to get out of it, the prosecutor said.

Herrera-Gutierrez probably will face deportation after completing his sentence, Kolego said.
It’s not clear what country the teen was born in. Nearly a dozen people who appeared to be his family members attended the sentencing, but did not respond to a reporter’s interview request. Several of them wept quietly throughout the proceeding.

No relatives of Taylor or Bryson were in the courtroom, though one of Bryson’s sisters made a statement by telephone from her home on the Oregon Coast.

“We loved our sister, and she had four children and they lost their mom,” Dory Thurman told Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen. “We will have to live with this for the rest of our lives. I’m sorry that everybody has to suffer for the choices (Herrera-Gutierrez) made that night.”

Kolego said the teen’s undocumented status also helped set those events in motion. Because of it, he was unable to get a driver’s permit and license, as most of his peers were doing. Wanting to drive, he waited until his parents were asleep that night and took their car out without permission.

He made another in a “series of catastrophic choices” when he decided to speed on the Randy Papé Beltline, Hopkins said. An Oregon State Police trooper saw Herrera-Gutierrez driving “about 100 miles an hour” and began pursuing him shortly before the 12:33 a.m. crash, the prosecutor said.

The teen initially pulled over just past the Barger Drive overpass, Hopkins said. But as soon as the trooper got out of his vehicle, Herrera-Gutierrez took off southbound toward West 11th Avenue, where he turned east and accelerated toward the site of the impending crash.

Hopkins told Rasmussen that the teen never asked about the condition of Bryson and Taylor, despite seeing them receiving medical attention at the crash scene and later being taken to the same emergency room as Taylor.

Under Oregon’s Ballot Measure 11, he was charged as an adult and will serve the mandatory minimum sentence of 75 months for second-degree manslaughter. He will do so in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections rather than the Oregon Youth Authority, despite his young age, his lack of criminal record and the fact that drugs and alcohol were not involved in the crash.

Kolego told the judge that his client was not indifferent to the harm he’d caused, but was dazed after suffering a concussion.

After the hearing, the defense attorney expressed hope that Herrera-Gutierrez would be incarcerated at the state’s MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn until age 18, and “hopefully, if he continues to behave himself, will remain isolated from hardened prisoners” after that. Kolego said Lane County juvenile detention officials have said they’ve never had a young inmate as well-behaved as his client.

“This is a really decent kid who made a horrific decision when he was too young to fully appreciate the risk he was putting other people in,” the defense attorney said.

What happens on the border...

A recent trip to "Border School and Tour" in El Paso, Texas by two sheriff's from Oregon has created quite a stir in the media.
Groups that support the illegal alien population in our state are attempting to divert attention from the real issues and danger of the cartel presence and the related crimes, drug use, murder and violence. Does that mean that these groups, such as CAUSA, support the drug cartels foothold in Oregon?

Pro-illegal alien groups are attempting to put the focus on the cost of sending two sheriffs to Border School but avoid talking about the incredible cost to our state caused by the presence of Mexican drug cartel traffickers. Where is their outrage about that?

Oregon citizens should be proud that two sheriff's from Oregon attended, learned and can share what they learned with other law enforcement agents.

Read the Oregonians report here.

Read the Willamette Week's report here.

 


 

What happens on the border, doesn't stay on the border

Alert date: 
September 17, 2012
Alert body: 

In a continuing effort to be well educated about the complexities of the issues surrounding illegal immigration, OFIR's President will travel to El Paso, Texas to attend the National Sheriff's Border School and Border Tour. The program is a rigorous and in-depth look at the issues faced each and every day by Law Enforcement officials not just on the border, but throughout the country.  Check back for updates.

Two Woodburn men arrested for organized theft crime

A three-month long investigation lead to the arrest of two Woodburn men accused of buying and reselling stolen property.

Woodburn Police Capt. Jason Alexander said that Mario Paniagua, 35, and Adolfo Zarate Cabrera, 33, would send men to steal things from other stores and then resell the items in La Tienda Mexicana La Azteca, 153 Grant St.

Police served a search warrant at the store and a residence at 12549 McKee School Road, where they seized a significant amount of stolen property, police said.

The two are charged with racketeering, money laundering and attempted first-degree theft.

Police began an investigation in June when a person was arrested at a Fred Meyer for shoplifting, and gave information about La Tienda Mexicana La Azteca purchasing stolen goods.

Fred Meyer's Organized Retail Crime Section and Canby Police Department assisted in the case.

If anyone has information in the case, they are asked to contact Detective Aaron Devoe at 503-982-2345.

Woman sentenced in DUI crash that injured Salem children's author

A 58-year-old woman whose car struck a visually impaired Salem author while she was high on two drugs and legally blind was sentenced Tuesday to 70 months —almost six years — in prison.

Paige Clarkson, a Marion County deputy district attorney, said that Rose Litherland was high on both methamphetamine and marijuana on May 29 when she drove through the intersection at 17th and Chemeketa streets NE and hit John Dashney, 70, in the marked crosswalk.

“She did not see him and barreled through the crosswalk,” Clarkson said.

She did not have a valid driver’s license and is legally blind — although her attorney James Susee clarified that she has cataracts and could see well.

Dashney, an author of children’s books who is blind, suffered a broken back and ribs, punctured lungs, a blood clot on his kidney and a large cut to the back of the head.

He was in critical condition for several weeks before he was released from Salem Hospital on June 21. He is still receiving rehabilitation treatment, but is otherwise back up and walking, Clarkson said.

“He was not expected to survive his injuries … Frankly Mr. Dashney is lucky to be alive today,” Clarkson said. “Now he’s back to doing what he loves, signing and writing children’s books.”

In court Tuesday, Litherland pleaded no contest to a Measure 11 charge of second-degree assault and guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants.

Litherland answered all of Judge Broyles’ questions with a yes or no, and did not say anything when given the chance.

“I think she’s very remorseful, she just doesn’t show it,” Susee said.

Clarkson said Dashney’s medical expenses are more than $300,000, but asked for a six-month delay in submitting a final amount of restitution in the case.

Susee said that Litherland is a permanent resident but is originally from an island in the South Pacific. He said that she was unemployed and would likely be deported so expressed doubts about her ability to pay.

“I’m hopeful that Mr. Dashney won’t have to suffer a financial loss,” Clarkson said. She said, however, that she will work to make sure that Litherland is held accountable for the costs.

Report cites I-5 as major drug corridor

Illegal drugs continue to be a major problem for the state of Oregon — the manufacture of them, the use of them, the illicit sale of them and even their transportation, according to a report from the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

Between January 2008 and the end of March 2012, authorities traced nearly $10 million in drug money seizures back to Oregon.

The connection to the state was determined through certain conditions: either the vehicle used for drug transportation or the driver’s license was registered to an Oregon address.

According to the HIDTA report, 464 incidents of drug or cash seizures could be traced back to Oregon. The most common states in which said incidents occurred were California, Nebraska and Kansas.

However, when considering the pounds of marijuana heading east, four states stand out: South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa.

The reason for Oregon’s high amount of seizures, authorities said, is the state’s location on a prime drug route — Interstate 5.

“Oregon sits on one of a number of major drug corridors,” said Chris Gibson, director of the Oregon HIDTA. “Drugs coming from Mexico and drug trafficking organizations are either being dropped here or distributed with portions being dropped here.”

I-5 connects Canada, Mexico and the states in between in a single vein of traffic, making it an ideal route for drug traffickers. In addition, many of Oregon’s other highways run east to other outlying states. The report cited Highways 97 and 395 as major examples.

These connecting highways, in addition to a drug demand in Oregon, make the state appealing for drug traffickers, Gibson said.

“I think Oregon has its own demand problem,” he said. “We just happen to have that distinction of sitting on I-5, which is the pipeline from Mexico both ways. It’s natural for drugs to make it up this way and then head east, but a lot of it is being left behind in the state.”

The two most frequently trafficked drugs noted by HIDTA are marijuana and controlled prescription drugs. Between the two, more than 60,000 incidents of seizures were connected to Oregon during a four-year period.

Gibson said it’s important to note that although it appears the connections point to the drugs being physically located in Oregon at some point, that’s not necessarily true.

“For instance, you could have a person from Salem who, for whatever reason, grabs a load in Idaho and takes it East,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily connect the drugs that were being in Oregon at that point, I would say, with the exception primarily of marijuana.”

Southern Oregon continues to house a large amount of domestically-grown marijuana, Gibson said. More seizures of marijuana trafficking occurred on I-5 headed north than in any other direction or any other drug, according to the report.

Officials in Salem have a particular concern about marijuana because the drug frequently serves as a gateway into harder drugs, such as heroin, according to Lt. Dave Okada, spokesman for the Salem Police.

“A lot of it is marijuana leading to abuse of prescription drugs that leads to the heroin,” he said. “I don’t know if that has a correlation to the proximity of I-5, but our street crimes team is telling me that the vast majority of people they deal with on addiction issues say they started with marijuana.”

An Oregon State Police traffic stop north of Lakeview in 2011 led to the discovery of 50 pounds of marijuana. / Photo courtesy of Oregon State Police

Police arrest home robbery suspect in Welches

Clackamas County sheriff's deputies are starting to unravel a bizarre robbery spree in Welches.

Saturday they arrested 20-year-old Sergio Cruz-Hernandez for robbing a home on East Twinberry Loop early that morning. Neighbors say the homeowner was stabbed twice during the robbery and was taken to Emanuel Hospital to recover.

Jeff Harum said he woke up to screaming around 4 a.m. as his neighbor's wife came running down the street pleading for help.

"She was yelling 'they've come back. They're back again. They have my husband,'" Harum said.

The same house had been burglarized the week before. The volunteer firefighter who lives there awoke to a man standing in his room. Although the intruder had a gun and demanded cash, the homeowner was able to convince him to leave empty handed.

Harum believes the same man came back this weekend.

"This is insane for the same guy to come and hit the same house twice," Harum said.

Saturday the intruder was armed with a knife. Harum said his neighbor was taken to the hospital with two stab wounds.

"We're all pretty tight here, and we realize we kind of (have) to police ourselves and keep an eye on it," Harum said.

The scare was the second call deputies responded to that morning, according to a sergeant on the scene.

Just two blocks away, Victor Ruiz said a man broke into his trailer and tried to molest his 16-year-old sister while she was sleeping.

"She was screaming and then she ran into my room and said somebody was in her room," Ruiz said.

When he tried to run after the intruder, Ruiz said he couldn't find anyone.

Later Saturday, deputies took Cruz-Hernandez into custody and charged him with first-degree robbery. He was booked in the Clackamas County Jail. Deputies plan to press more charges after further investigation, according to reports.
 

Philomath man pleads guilty in double murder

A 22-year-old Philomath man pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of aggravated murder in the 2011 killings of his girlfriend and their infant child.

Gustavo David Martinez-Aquepucho faces two potential life sentences in the deaths of Kelsey Rozetta Baker, 19, and their 1-year-old son, Theo, on April 29 of last year.

Martinez-Aquepucho, in shackles and black-and-white-striped jail uniform, sat silently in a Corvallis courtroom with about 20 people looking on while prosecutors and defense attorneys met behind closed doors.

After several minutes of deliberation, the prosecution and defense teams entered the courtroom, followed by Benton County Circuit Judge Janet Holcomb. She read aloud the two counts that Martinez-Aquepucho was charged with as part of a plea agreement. After he said he understood the charges, Martinez-Aquepucho pleaded guilty to both.

Martinez-Aquepucho and Baker were both students at Oregon State University. They met several years ago at Philomath High School, where Martinez-Aquepucho was an exchange student from Peru.

According to statements introduced during an earlier hearing, the two had been estranged and Baker, who had refused to reconcile with Martinez-Aquepucho, had been seeing another man prior to the killings.

The defendant reportedly told authorities that he drugged Baker and Theo with cold medicine and then slit their throats with a knife. He then cut his own wrists in a suicide attempt, saying he wanted to be with them in the afterlife.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Martinez-Aquepucho must serve at least 30 years before becoming eligible for parole.

Holcomb set sentencing for 9 a.m. on Dec. 10, scheduling up to a week for the hearing.

According to Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson, the hearing will determine whether Martinez-Aquepucho will serve the sentence for each count consecutively or concurrently.

Haroldson said the state will argue that the sentences should be served consecutively.

“We just shifted from proving what happened to now looking at establishing what should happen,” Haroldson said. “Where one is looking at the past, the other is looking to the future.”

Due to the guilty pleas, the court will not consider the death penalty.

Martinez-Aquepucho is represented by attorneys Mark Sabitt and Dan Koenig.

 

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