Dad of American killed in alleged pirate attack says Mexico police failing to find son’s body

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dad: Mexican police failing in pirate attack probe

DENVER — The father of an American man who was allegedly killed by pirates in a lake on the Texas-Mexico border accused Mexican authorities of being corrupt and said Tuesday they’re not doing enough to find his son’s body.

Dennis Hartley of Milliken, Colo., was responding to statements by Mexican police in Tamaulipas State saying that they had not found evidence that the attack last week happened as it was described by Hartley’s daughter-in-law, Tiffany Hartley.

Tiffany Hartley said she and her husband, David, were on Jet Skis on Falcon Lake on Thursday when men on three speedboats chased them, shooting her husband in the head. Authorities have not recovered his body, but Tiffany Hartley said she believes the gun shot was fatal.

Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, the Tamaulipas State Police commander overseeing the search for David Hartley, told the McAllen (Texas) Monitor on Monday that no one near the lake reported hearing gunshots or the sound of anyone on a Jet Ski.

The district attorney in charge of the case, Marco Antonio Guerrero Carrizales, also told the newspaper that authorities “are not certain that the incident happened the way that they are telling us.”

Mexican authorities have not responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Dennis Hartley said he doesn’t believe the Mexican authorities and that they were being paid off by drug cartels. “I don’t think anything right now is being done,” he said. “I don’t think at this time Mexico is really doing anything.”

“That’s our opinion of their investigation,” he told the AP.

Pam Hartley, David’s mother, said she was hurt by the comments from Mexico’s law enforcement and saw it as a tactic to make the case go away.

Tiffany Hartley recounted the incident on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday, describing how she saw bullets hitting the water near her and her husband flying over his Jet Ski. She became emotional as she described going to her husband to try to help.

“I had to turn him over because he was face down in the water, and turned him over, and he was shot in the head,” she said, adding that she tried to pull her husband onto her Jet Ski but couldn’t, and that a man on one of the boats pointed his gun at her. “I couldn’t get him up, and I just kept hearing God tell me, ‘You have to go, you have to go.’ So I had to leave him so I could get to safety.”

Hartley said she believes the men are hiding evidence of the attack.

“I believe in my heart that they went back and took him, and they’re hiding our Jet Ski, they’re hiding him, and we just plea that we get him back,” she said.

The alleged attack happened near the U.S. boundary of the lake, which is about 60 miles down the border from Laredo. Authorities said several fishermen were robbed at gunpoint earlier this year on the Mexican side of the lake but no one was hurt.

Pam Hartley said her son had been living in McAllen, Texas, and across the border in Reynosa, Mexico, for almost three years for his job in the oil industry. The couple were planning to move back to Colorado soon.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the Texas congressman trying to help the family, said the shooting happened in Mexican waters and the U.S. doesn’t have jurisdictional authority.

“However, we can and must continue to urge our Mexican counterparts to search for David Hartley,” he said in a statement.

Cuellar said the U.S. Consulate General has asked for permission from the Mexican government to allow U.S. search teams to help. He said officials are waiting for the Mexican government to respond.

Pam Hartley urged Mexican authorities to work with the U.S. government to find her son and get more people involved “to search for David and bring him home.”

“If they’re saying that this did not happen, that this was all staged, if that’s what they’re trying to pursue, they’re going the wrong way,” she said. “It did happen. My son is gone.”

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