El Paso Vice: When Drug Cops Become Criminals

It started when he searched houses without a warrant. If he found drugs, he picked up the search warrant afterwards. He arrested a Mexican that he knew was working in the middle management of a cartel. He had no proof; he just knew it. After three weeks on trial, the court had to let the manager go free. So Martinez told the Mexican commandant what that man looked like and when he would be freed. After he crossed the border, a black minibus on the Mexican side stopped beside him and took him away.

"Alright," says Martinez, taking a deep breath. So far he has laughed a lot on his journey through the memories. But he tells the next chapter without looking up, describing operations that weren't recorded in any files.

"A lot of people disappear in Mexico," he says. "They are buried where no one will find them. Some are eaten by tigers and some by sharks. There are also big tanks with acid in them." He pauses for a long time between the sentences.

"We didn't manage to catch all the bad guys. In those cases, we gave the Mexicans their names and said, 'Do what you need to do.' The Mexicans made those people disappear."

Martinez sits in his car, holding the steering wheel firmly with both hands. He looks frightened by the memories of his own life. "Come on, let's go to the cemetery," he says.

The Drug War Gets Personal

His cousin Bruno is in this cemetery. He was 27 years old when he was shot and killed on Martinez's wedding anniversary. He was struck in the torso by two bullets while crossing a shopping center parking lot. Police caught the shooter that same evening -- a 13-year-old boy from Juárez who named no motive.

"Please Sal, go get him," a cousin told him at the funeral. Martinez visited the killer's mother in the slums of Juárez to find out why the shooting had occurred, but she was silent.

Three years after Bruno's death, the phone rang in Martinez's office. He was with an informant, a police officer from Mexico, Jaime Jañez, who sold him information about cartels. It was Susie, who said that the killer had been released and was back in Juárez.

Martinez hung up the phone and said nothing. Jañez said he knew a few people in Juárez who owed him a favor. Martinez and Jañez met up a few more times, and Martinez paid him a total of $10,000 of the DEA's money intended for information. One day Jañez asked whether Martinez wanted the boy killed, and he said yes.

A few weeks later, Martinez was sitting with two FBI agents in a room during a training session. He thought the men were going to tell him something about the cooperation between the DEA and the FBI. Instead, they read him his Miranda rights.

They asked Martinez if he wanted to tell his story. He replied that he wanted to speak with his lawyer.

He doesn't know why Jañez gave him up. Perhaps because he was a law-abiding citizen, or perhaps the FBI paid handsomely for such information. Jañez was wearing a wire during their meetings, and the FBI had them on tape and video. Martinez pled guilty and the court sentenced him to 87 months in prison for attempted murder.

Martinez had become a police officer to put away evil people, but in the end, it came down to one criminal chasing another, the difference being that one had cocaine in his pocket and the other an American police I.D.

'Legalization Feels Wrong' In prison, Martinez learned that there were a few prisoners who were in even more danger than child molesters -- police officers.

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