AUSTIN – The arrest of an alleged leader in Mexico’s Zeta Cartel is raising questions among some in the intelligence community regarding his role in the murder of an American two years ago.
David Hartley and his wife Tiffany were jet skiing in Falcon Lake on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010 when they entered Mexican waters and were shot at.
“I think they stumbled into a location that was protected by the cartels and the organizations either looked at the Hartleys as possibly being from a rival cartel or maybe U.S. undercover law enforcement,” said Fred Burton, a counter-terrorism expert with Austin-based intelligence company Stratfor.
David Hartley was shot in the head and died.
On Monday Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, nicknamed “The Squirrel,” and other alleged Zeta members were paraded in handcuffs in front of cameras in Mexico.
Burton questioned if Escobedo had the authority inside the Zetas to make such a call regarding the American's death.
“I have no doubt that probably this individual had some role inside the organization, but I'm fairly skeptical over any direct involvement that this individual may have had in the Hartley killing. It's our understanding that the Zetas picked up the individuals involved with the murder and had them killed. Remember this kind of disruption was bad for business,” Burton said.
Escobedo is also tied to the murders of 50 Mexican migrant workers. He is suspected of ordering the deaths of hundreds more in 2010.
"The Squirrel" is also accused of breaking 132 prisoners out of a Mexican prison two weeks ago so they could help fight a turf war there.
When asked what the motivation was for Mexican authorities to arrest Escobedo in connection with the Hartley murder, Burton said he believed it was all political on the part of the Mexican government.
Burton advised any American traveling near the U.S. Mexico border to be aware of their surroundings at all times.