APNewsBreak: Perry urges Mexican president to help investigate lake shooting

By April Castro, AP
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

APNewsBreak: Perry seeks Mexico’s help in probe

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday he has asked Mexico’s president to call him in the next 48 hours to discuss the search efforts for the body of an American reportedly shot to death on a border lake.

Perry said he hopes the body has been retrieved by the time he gets the call.

“If not, we’re not looking hard enough,” he told The Associated Press.

Tiffany Hartley says her husband, David, was shot by Mexican pirates on Falcon Lake last week as they were returning to the United States on Jet Skis. Falcon Lake is a dammed section of the Rio Grande that has been plagued by pirates who rob boaters and fisherman who wander into Mexican waters. Hartley’s death would be the first killing on the lake.

The Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry responded Wednesday with a statement that noted Mexico’s “condemnation of any act that endangers the lives of innocent citizens,” saying the country “is committed to the investigation of those acts.”

The statement said Mexico has “from the first moment” been in contact with the U.S. to coordinate the search and recovery of Hartley’s body, and noted that Mexican authorities have “stepped up their actions with the support of specialized personnel, boats and helicopters.”

Tiffany Hartley has said her husband was shot in the head by three men chasing them in speedboats and that he fell off his Jet Ski and into the lake. His body has not been recovered.

Hartley and several relatives took boats out onto the water of the U.S. side Wednesday to lay a wreath for him. Hartley said at a news conference later that she wanted to honor her husband and also wanted other family members to be able get a better idea of what the day had been like when he was shot.

“It was very emotional because I know he’s out there and we just all want him back so we can give him the proper goodbye,” she said.

Family members and Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said at the news conference that they would like to see more efforts by the Mexican authorities to find David Huntley.

“As long as David’s not home, enough hasn’t been done,” said his mother, Pam Hartley.

Perry said Mexico needs to use every resource available to find the body and have it returned to U.S. soil. He said Mexican Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Julian Ventura had been accommodating during talks Tuesday. U.S. authorities are unable to investigate Hartley’s disappearance because it happened in Mexico.

The statement from Mexico City ran counter to comments by state officials in Tamaulipas, who cast doubt on Tiffany Hartley’s story in interviews with the McAllen Monitor.

The district attorney there, Marco Antonio Guerrero Carrixales, also told the paper that authorities “are not certain that incident happened the way that they are telling us.”

Tiffany Hartley said such comments have been difficult for her to hear. “I know what I know. I know what I saw,” she said.

Perry said the couple was sightseeing in Mexico. “I find it really reprehensible for anyone, U.S. or Mexican, to speak otherwise,” he said.

Perry also used the incident to renew his demand that the federal government do more to secure the U.S.-Mexico border as northern Mexico sinks deeper into drug-gang violence. The violence has spread in the last few months from Ciudad Juarez, the epicenter of Mexico’s drug war across from El Paso, Texas, to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande Valley, including Tamaulipas state where Hartley reportedly disappeared. Two drug gangs, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, are battling for supremacy there and fighting the Mexican military.

“Frankly, these two presidents (Calderon and President Barack Obama) need to get together with their secretaries of state and say, ‘What are we going to do about this?’”

Tiffany Hartley said she and her husband, who worked in the oil business, had been living in the Mexican border city of Reynosa before moving to McAllen, Texas, at the insistence of his company. They previously had lived in Colorado.

U.S. authorities are unable to investigate Hartley’s disappearance because it happened in Mexico.

Democrat Bill White, who is challenging Perry’s re-election bid, said responding to an incident after the fact is not enough, and that the governor needs to speak to sheriffs and law enforcement who work along the border to learn and respond to their needs. He said the area needs more sheriffs deputies and more assistance from state troopers.

Perry also said he spoke Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s chief of staff and again made his request for an additional 1,000 National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border, a request that has been repeatedly denied.

Also Wednesday, officials said a South Texas college student was shot and killed in Mexico. Officials were trying to get more information, but it was not yet known if the death of Jonathan William Torres, 19, was connected to the ongoing drug war violence in Mexico. Torres, a freshman at the University of Texas at Brownsville, was killed in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, according to the Brownsville Herald.

“How many more American citizens have to die?” Perry said.

Associated Press writers Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City, Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston, Ivan Moreno in Denver and Jamie Stengle in Dallas contributed to this report. Associated Press photographer Eric Gay contributed to this report from Zapata.

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