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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, June 24, 2013

Drug cartels in Oregon: Violence in the Northwest

Borderland Beat

Drug cartels in Oregon: Canby explosion may have been cartel relatedCanby Police Sgt. Frank Schoenfeld walks through the sequence of events at the site of the Dec. 11, 2011, explosion that killed Ivan Velasco Rodriguez.

By Les Zaitz,
The Oregonian

For more than a day, the plastic orange toolbox sat on the lawn under a cherry tree, a few paces from the sidewalk.

No one passing the Canby home took notice. Not the runners. Not the dog walkers. Not the kids riding by on bicycles.

Then curiosity drew a 31-year-old landscaper who had come to the home just after sunset to help a friend move. Ivan Velasco Rodriguez poked the toolbox with a wooden rake handle.

The pipe bomb lurking inside exploded. Metal shards flying at bullet speed fatally injured Velasco Rodriguez and slammed into surrounding homes. Pieces fell on roofs two blocks away.

Canby police and federal agents swarmed the scene that night in December 2011. Who planted the booby trap that killed Velasco Rodriguez, a married father of four? And who was the intended target?

Police made no arrests, and the crime faded from public view.

But behind the scenes, federal law enforcement sources say, investigators reached a chilling conclusion: A Mexican drug cartel most likely commissioned the bomb to kill a witness who once listed the address as his own. Their suspicions deepened when they discovered the bombing was eerily similar to twin explosions in central Washington, where rigged devices killed two men hours apart in 2008.

The findings, never before disclosed to the public, were uncovered by The Oregonian as part of a nine-month investigation into the astonishing reach of Mexican drug cartels in the Northwest.

The Oregonian has learned that Mexican cartels, including the powerful Sinaloa and the brutal Los Zetas, have infiltrated almost every corner of Oregon. At last count, authorities were aware of no fewer than 69 drug trafficking organizations selling drugs in the state, nearly all supplied by cartels.

Police have taken down drug operations cloaked as a restaurant in Bend and a grocery in Hillsboro. They've busted traffickers in Gresham, Pendleton and, in a takedown last month involving 300 officers, in Klamath County. They've intercepted shipments from Oregon traffickers as far away as Texas, Minnesota and Florida.

Cartels and their allies control nearly every ounce of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine flowing into the region, investigators say, smuggling drugs up Interstate 5 by the ton and money back down by the millions. They dominate the marijuana market, tearing up Oregon forests for massive plantations. They exact an unfathomable toll in lives ruined and cut short by drug abuse.

Perhaps most unnerving, cartel-connected traffickers lash out in violence to control territory, settle debts or warn rivals -- not just in Mexico, but here in the Northwest. Police suspect a cartel is behind the roadside execution early last year of a trafficker near Salem.

They think cartel operatives shot two California drug dealers whose bodies were found buried in the sage northeast of Klamath Falls last fall. They also believe a cartel ordered a 2007 hit in which a trafficker and four friends were lined up on the floor of a Vancouver rental home and shot in the head.

"They will take advantage of any avenue they can to make their business succeed," said Kelvin Crenshaw, until recently the special agent in charge of the Seattle regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "Make no bones about it. The control is from the cartels."

Yet even as traffickers live in our towns and menace our residents, their scourge has remained hidden in plain sight. Police often report homicides, drug busts and threats as isolated incidents. Until now, the region's drug enforcement officials have mostly kept a lid on connections that all point in one direction: to the cartels responsible for the rivers of bloodshed hundreds of miles away in Mexico.

"They are here," said one former cartel member, a 29-year-old Oregon man who asked that his name be kept secret to protect his safety. "They try hard to stay off the radar."

Suspected cartel violence

The Oregonian's investigation included the unprecedented cooperation of law enforcement officials at all levels, including more than 250 interviews with investigators in six states. The newspaper reviewed 50,000 pages of documents, including rarely available wiretap excerpts and files in open homicide cases. Sources also included former traffickers, defense attorneys and victims, such as the family of a Bend 21-year-old who collapsed on his front lawn as a lethal heroin dose flowed into his veins.

Law enforcement officials helped with The Oregonian's investigation because they're convinced the public needs to better understand the growing threat the region faces. Though many cartel homicides are never solved -- witnesses are threatened into silence, and killers leave few clues before sliding back across the border -- authorities say cartels' involvement in deaths and other crimes here is unmistakable.

"Oregonians," said John Deits, the assistant U.S. attorney who oversees federal drug prosecutions in Oregon, "are totally naive, totally out of touch with what is happening."

 Disturbing leads
The neighborhood of the Canby bombing seems an unlikely place for a cartel hit.
Ranch houses and newer Northwest-style homes line Northeast 22nd Street, which runs east-west along the north edge of town. The scent of freshly mowed lawns hangs in the air.
The one-story white house where the bombing occurred sits on an extra-wide lot. A gravel driveway sweeps along one side, past the cherry tree, to a carport and shop in back.

At the time of the crime, a man rented the house with his wife and their 19-year-old son. Their names are being withheld to protect their safety. The renter declined to be interviewed, but lead investigator Chris Mead of the Canby Police Department gave an account. Ben Hartwig, who was visiting the neighborhood at the time of the bombing, filled in details.

The renter worked two jobs, saving enough to buy a home in Salem. The family was in the middle of moving on the evening of Dec. 10, 2011, when the renter spotted the toolbox as he pulled his pickup to the house for another load. Believing that another man's property should be left alone, he told his wife and son about the toolbox but did not call police.

The son, disobeying orders to stay away, tried to open the latch after his parents left for Salem. A string held it fast, but the box opened just enough to reveal something odd inside. The son called his parents' cellphone only to be told again to leave the box alone.

Join investigative reporter Les Zaitz, Tuesday at noon for an online reader Q & A.
The renter worked the next day, a Sunday. As he headed home, he called Velasco Rodriguez, a friend, for help gathering scrap metal at the Canby home. Velasco Rodriguez arrived with another helper, parking near the cherry tree. He asked the renter about the toolbox and was told to let it be.

The renter was in the carport loading plants into his pickup when he was rocked by a blast. He ran to the front yard. Two doors down, Hartwig was attending the annual gingerbread-house contest of his fiancee and her family when the home shook and the windows rattled. Hartwig, an Iraq War veteran and former explosives expert in the U.S. Marine Corps, froze for a second.

"It didn't really make sense -- a bomb going off in Canby," he said.

He rushed down the block to find the renter and the other helper standing over Velasco Rodriguez in stunned silence. Velasco Rodriguez lay on his back in the driveway, shrapnel wounds in his head and stomach. Hartwig, who'd received his EMT certification five months earlier, knew the wounds were probably fatal. But he, neighbors and then medics tried to save Velasco Rodriguez.

In the days that followed, local investigators and agents from the FBI and ATF combed for clues. The explosion so shredded the toolbox that plastic bits remain at the scene even now. Investigators recovered enough of the pipe bomb to reconstruct it but learned little about its origin. They dug into Velasco Rodriguez's background but quickly concluded he wasn't the target. They also found no disputes or drug activity involving the renter and his family.

Then an ATF investigator discovered that the address had been listed by a man connected to a major drug case in another state. That led federal law enforcement officials to suspect the work of a Mexican drug cartel.

A month after the Canby bombing, the ATF agent traveled to Moses Lake, Wash., to learn about the 2008 bombings. There he found startling parallels to the Canby killing.

Workshop blast
The morning of Aug. 2, 2008, William A. Walker opted to stay home to tinker in his backyard workshop while his wife joined visiting relatives to hunt for antiques, according to an account from family members.

The 69-year-old retired electrician had returned to the area in the mid-1990s after an industrial accident in Ohio left him unable to work regular hours. He and his third wife, Dorothy, settled in Wheeler, five miles east of Moses Lake, to look after the widow of a fishing buddy. Walker spent time repairing cars and small power tools.

"He was a fix-it guy," said Valerie Johnson, a stepdaughter. "He's just the good guy next door."

About 8:30 or 9, Walker carried a battery charger to the back of his shop and plugged it in.

A couple of hours later, Dorothy Walker, 82 miles away in Cashmere, was growing anxious. She had tried over and over to reach her husband, first at the house, then on his cellphone.

"He's one of those answering people," she said. "I just got a terrible feeling." She called a grandson in a panic, asking him to go check.

Andy Otto, 33, lived about six miles away and often spent Saturdays helping his grandfather in the shop. He arrived about 1:30 p.m. to a terrible scene. A pipe bomb inside the charger had exploded, blowing a hole in the shop wall and dropping Walker to the concrete floor. He had died of severe head and chest wounds.

A couple walking their dog had heard a muffled blast and saw a puff of smoke drift from the shop. A couple sleeping in an RV in the Walkers' driveway also heard the explosion. Neither went to investigate, but they helped police piece together the sequence of events, said Ryan Rectenwald, lead investigator at the time and now chief deputy at the Grant County (Wash.) Sheriff's Office.

At first, medics and police thought a shop chemical or battery had blown up accidentally. Another blast hours later and only five miles away suggested otherwise.
Javier Martinez Adame, 53, was unemployed and living with his girlfriend, Heather Smith, in a small house on a dead-end lane just north of Moses Lake city limits.

Adame, the fourth of nine children, held odd jobs most of his life after a car accident left him unable to work long shifts, said a sister, Sandra Valdez. A father and grandfather, he kept a tidy home and worked on wood projects.

"He was a really good mechanic," Valdez said. "He was just helping people all the time."

Police suspected he was also dealing drugs. Grant County court records show he was convicted of cocaine possession in 1998 and cited for possessing drug paraphernalia in 1999.

That weekend in 2008, Smith found a police scanner in a paper grocery bag in the driveway and moved it to the porch, Rectenwald said. Just after midnight on Aug. 3, Adame carried the scanner into the kitchen and plugged it in.

Adame muttered an expletive just before a pipe bomb hidden inside exploded, killing him instantly. Rectenwald said Adame had experience with explosives and may have heard the detonator.

Valdez, notified in a phone call, arrived later that morning.

"When we drove up the gravel road, there were cops, tape. I was screaming," Valdez said. "I was begging them to let me see him. They said I wouldn't want to see something like that."

ATF technicians soon established that the bombs that killed Walker and Adame were nearly identical. Given Adame's history, investigators concluded he was the intended target of the scanner. But what about Walker? Grant County sheriff's detectives, with help from ATF and FBI agents, hunted for a link between him and Adame.

For a time, Otto said, police thought he might have been the target of the battery charger. He and relatives said investigators asked him whether he owed someone in the drug world money.

"They said it was meant for me," Otto said. "They stayed on that trail for a while."
Otto was arrested in 2004 after police found 186 marijuana plants in a travel trailer he was using, but he said he had since put his "troubled" years behind him.

Investigators also focused attention on a neighbor whose home had been raided by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents five months before as part of a cocaine investigation. Law enforcement sources said a cartel could have meant the charger for him.

In any case, investigators concluded Walker was the victim of mistaken identity. Walker's family dedicated a Facebook page to the case and still holds occasional events to seek help solving it. Both cases have gone cold, Rectenwald said.

Investigators are also looking for new leads in the Canby case. Police acknowledged that the common circumstances -- pipe bombs hidden in everyday items that were left unattended -- interest them.

Days after the bombing, Canby police set up a tip line and offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Investigators found it odd, Police Chief Bret Smith said, when few clues rolled in.

The silence, Smith said, indicates that the killer came to Canby, set the bomb and slipped away without a trace.


  1. Wow! What a great argument for amnesty! NOT.

  2. NOOOO cartel violence hasn't spilled over , that's a lie... hahaha ...

  3. This news lacks info...
    Lot of words but no story..
    In other words, bad news report..

  4. Sure the cartels are all the way up and into Canada but pinning these random bombings on Mexican cartels with out a shred of evidence is a far stretch of someones imagination... Just sayin'

  5. Yea, our fearless leaders in Washington DC...don't give a crap. They want to give illegals amnesty....thanks for nothing...This country is really going down the tubes if you ask me.

    1. Might as well start packing your bags because its going to be a long ride to moscow.

    2. Hell no!!! I say send their ass to moscow and let em freeze to death in those cold siberian winters!!

  6. All them freakin methheads up there and never open ANYTHING unattended and u dont know where it came from so sad all the drug business garbage

  7. por fasvor...let 'em come to Brownsville...hahahaha!

  8. check out video. Cut and paste link on your iPhone. It's a video of recordings of the situation in Sinaloa.

  9. Good work Buggs in bringing BB readers this story

    These bombings might be the work of the same narco terrorist, considering the modus operandi of the bombings were similiar. That is why the FBI and ATFE don't hesitate to take somebody down that even begins some action in carrying out bombings, since they are difficult in solving. The abortion clinic bomber, Eric Robert Rudolph, and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczinsky, come to mind as serial bombers that were difficult to catch; Unabomber was caught only after his brother turned him in, while Rudolph only after a rookie cop came across him looking for food in a dumpster near a forest. The bombings in Washington occured 5yrs. ago, while the one in Oregon took place 1 in-a-halfyr ago and still no apprehension. The length these cartels go through to kill somebody know no boundary. As long as narco trafficking remains lucrative cartels continue to fight for territory, and cartels go after people that don't pay the money they own, expect the narco terrorism to continue.

  10. Its not surprising this group here in Greensboro North Carolina consisting of Candace, John Tandy and the rest of Jeff Hollande and others talked about killing all the latinos particularly the latino gangs. Their group that works at Harris Teeter and combines chicano and mexican members with whites wants to rid the world of drug traffickers, latino gangs and about everyone else except who they pick. They use electromagnetic to run everyone out of the city when they want damaging cars, buildings while they get paid ten bucks an hour. They use up to 13 lasers after their most hated groups with 13 in them at targets who say they have been to El Salvador. They plotted to kill the head of MS-13, M-18 and everyone else and they continue just chugging along and no one does anything to them while they take peoples money, cars, houses and yes $560,000 from me and my family which the state or local law enforcement hasn't done anything about. They call themselves the Creeps, Halloween Group or NBA (national killers association of hitmen) or KKK.

  11. wow scary random bombs

  12. White militia groups and neo nazis in the northwestern US like rural oregan and Washington have declared war on "illegal immigrants" they dont even care if they are legal or not if they hate Mexicans and Hispanics. These bombings were carried out by them

    1. You cant hate a whole race of ppl cause of a few assholes who want to sell dope thats not even fair but i do think we need to seriously tighten the border up i mean REALLY tighten it up to try and prevent the narcos from getting thru.nothing is foolproof but it might help a far as the white supremisists? They are sickos too.send them to mexico to work as siscarios,they wudnt last the day and thats the point of it getting rid of them too.i dont care how many mexicans want to come to the u.s i wud welcome that just wish the narcos wouldnt blend in and they would stay down there

    2. "UNDOCUMENTED" must watch movies. These post making me think thats real...

  13. No one asked you hillbillys what you think.
    Did you think you can fight a war against a weed
    without doing nothing about your meth heads and claiming victory? this has nothing to do with Amnesty, or dreamers and all about your prohibition.

    1. I am not a hillbilly just a u.s citizen but i fucking HATE methheads!!! They are the WORST the lowest form.they will steal or do anything they can to get it.we just need to become like amsterdam and legalize and tax and control it like that.i dont bother with any of it but its got to be a better way than prohibition that obviously isnt working and maybe that would put a dent in the narcos budget

  14. Northwest is crawling with weirdos ppl from other states come here act wild and end up buried in the forest or in the recycling plant mob hits happen all the time and ppl go missing forever these bombs could of been anybody from any race,cartels put in work on anybody coming in their turf they will kidnap you and shoot by the river, sounds more like RGV to me. Nevertheless has nothing to do with amnesty you haters,ppl are always going to commit horrendous crimes mexCartels or not..bikers love blowing shit up too,but its easier to point at the mexican an easy suck it you out of stater come out here and get ghost bitch asses..

    1. Who the fuck wants to live up there? It rains too fucking much

    2. Guess a little rain scares a big pussy like you .

    3. Mountain folk with a taste for good narcotic herbs..something gasoline smokas don't know much about..we got the best.

    4. No rain dont scare me but fucking methheads do as they are psychotic.weed is not a narcotic

  15. Sorry but that article makes little sense, no doubt that cartels are active in Oregon, but those bombings look nothing like cartel executions, lots of noise and attention, zero results since supposedly 2 of the 3 dead would not have been the intended victims, right the opposite of how cartels act, and the alleged links to cartels are beyond weak. I simply don´t buy it, this is a bigger made up story than that Texas murder involving Aryan gangs and cartels, very weak material for a BB front page article, it belongs in a tabloid with other nonsensical conspiracy theories and such.

    1. Z loves to make noise. Especially in those years 40 still had to prove himself

  16. There are dozens of drug related killings in California every few hours and they are concerned about Oregons 4 or 5? No one cares about California anymore its run amuck with gangsters and narcos from Mexico, especially southern california. You might as well call it Zacatecas.

  17. Im from hermiston oregon, let me tell u theres morr drugs then people here. Theres people with connections to los zetas n cdg here that I know of. Alit of people from mission and mcallen here so thats were thay get there shit. All the whites r soooo fuked up on meth its unbelivable. This is a small town with huge problems. Whites can sayvwhatvthay want but fir every mexivan hi here theres five whites high. Quit bieing shit, its starting to look like the walking dead around here

    1. I know thats right.i am in the n ga mountains same deal here.all the jerry springer trailer trash up here fucked up on meth here to its really disgusting to look at them

  18. bealive me mex cartels would not do this.. cartels dont like any heat on them in the states if they would want to kill someone they would just pick them up shoot them and put them a couple feet under ground not put a random bomb down a some one that knows a thing or two this just makes me chukle...

  19. All the tough guys talkin crazy on a computer again?
    Hysterical Mexicans and US,talkin the salty shit again?The way this story is going on about all this you would think we got Z and CDG sicarios all over the yard,blowin shit up,and killin left right and center,this story here went back to a 2007 hit?Nothing changed much,chill out,have a cigarette,and stop shittin bricks?

  20. This is not news to portland Seattle underground. We all know who runs the show in the NW.

    1. And who might that be?

    2. Red mob,mex has the balls and brings it to the states..simple.throw some triads in their too..hahahah

  21. attn chivis krgv

    FALCON LAKE - Texas game wardens seized more than 10,000 feet of gill net on Falcon Lake. Wardens called it Operation Tilapia.

    They also seized two tons of marijuana from three boats. Officials said they were able to catch the suspects while on surveillance.

    Operation Tilapia was one of two week-long operations working to detect and reduce criminal activity. The operations focused on catching poachers, trespassers, human smugglers and drug smugglers. Operation Brush Guard took place near Kingsville and Falfurrias.

    Photo credit: © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

    1. Instead of a two-week operation by gamewardens for poaching just imagine what law enforcement would see and apprehend if they watched the lake 365 days a year. This story is just the tip of the iceberg. Falcon lake is large and Amistad is larger still, both with many back coves, side channels, uneven terrain along side

  22. kgbt video on Neighbors worried about illegal immigrant camp in Edinburg
    by Nadia Galindo
    Posted: 06.25.2013 at 11:23 AM

    Residents of a rural Edinburg neighborhood turned to Action 4 News after illegal immigrants set up an makeshift camp in a wooded area.

    The camp was located near Hoehn and Russell Roads on city's northwest side.

    Neighbors told Action 4 News that some 30 or more illegal immigrants stay at the camp before heading north.

    The campsite is reportedly used as a staging ground before immigrants hike through the South Texas brush country to bypass the Border Patrol's Falfurrias checkpoint.

    Border Patrol agents raided the camp where they reportedly caught between 50 to 60 immigrants.

    Sources told Action 4 News that the camp may have been used by as many 120 immigrants may have been staying at the camp.

    Action 4 News will provide more information as it becomes available.

    1. So they raided the camp until somebody called it in?this camp was raided before it got to incorporate it self,somebody didn't pay their monthly..

  23. Nobody gives an ass shit if one or a hundred bombs explode in some stupid town in Oregon. Not worth reporting this on BB.

    1. I care cuz im from here u piece if shit. Quit beingbsuch n ass. Maybe if this happened in ur neck of the woods youd care

  24. I live in eastern Wa & last week I seen a white Car with pitch black windows with California license plates playing real loud Zetas music Thats how you know Zetas are in Wa or Oregon

  25. what a dip shit! wtf is zetas music. alot of people like corridos it doest mean they are in a cartel.thanks for making my night. hahaha


    1. I know its a stupid joke I put it.

  26. @1:33
    thank you! I searched and really can't find much out there about it, which is surprising.

    this is what I found...


    Texas Game Wardens seized thousands of feet of gill net and nearly two tons of marijuana.

    In two separate operations, Brush Guard and Tilapia, game wardens aimed at apprehending poachers, human smugglers and drug smugglers along rural areas of South Texas.

    Operation Brush Guard took place in the Kingsville / Falfurrias location, with the help of federal, state and local law enforcement, game warden officers seized 345 pounds of marijuana, filed 14 citations and warnings, and made 4 arrest.

    Operation Tilapia, which focused on Lake Falcon, warden officers seized nearly two tons of marijuana from three boats while conducting surveillance on gill netters from Mexico.

    In total, seizures from both operations included 10,240 feet of illegal gill net, 5 vessels, 4 outboard motors, 9 vehicles, 3.9 grams in cocaine and 4,291 pounds of marijuana

  27. Would cartels want to heat up such a fertile plaza? There's too many reasons why that would be the last thing they would want to do. It quite obviously defeats their primary purpose, to keep the money flowing in. It's more likely some local jerk-wad punks or some loony-tunes whack job, there's always plenty of them near any coastline. Maybe they just love all the overcast and gloomy weather. It very well could have been over some domestic crap like something sexual or a debt or some machismo shit between the intended target and whoever either knew how to make a pipe-bomb themselves or farmed it out to someone who did. Either way it sounds like they'll probably never find out, which is very sad for this innocent landscaper and the wife and four children he leaves behind.

  28. If we're honest with ourselves , the highest probable culprit of what occurred (occurs and is occuring ) not only in the NW but across the US, is blatant Racism. I'm not just talking about anonymous acts of violence against , The (if not, one of the most) marginalized communities,but the far worst effects of rascist/bias media coverage with its libalice ,poisonous message of fear designed to degrade Mexicans. TURN OFF THE NEWS. READ!

  29. Shout out to the Herm Germ!!!! and Potlandia The Rose City!!!!

  30. Could be homegrown.remember timothy mcveigh and what he did? One of our own and that was a shame and he did it all with fertilizer

  31. June 26, 2013 at 7:24 PM
    "The (if not, one of the most) marginalized communities,but the far worst effects of rascist/bias media coverage with its libalice ,poisonous message of fear designed to degrade Mexicans. TURN OFF THE NEWS. READ!"
    Listen,your background on racism isn't so hot,so i wouldn't be shouting about race.The most racially abused people right now is Indigenous Mexicans by other Mexicans,not to mention Mexican racism against blacks,whites,etc,need i go on?At least we are trying to do something about it,,,ever day.Your negative racial outlook produces negativity such as mine,take the imaginary chip off your shoulder.

  32. @ 7:24 PM
    "not only in the NW but across the US, is" blatant Racism "
    That is an absolute classic coming from a Mexican,and if your white,you dont matter you are a shithouse.We are one of the fairest peoples,yet we are called all the time,and we have people,,like you?

  33. How in the hell can they make the claim that cartels are responsible for this??????


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