Oct. 8, 2012 — -- Mexican authorities have arrested an alleged drug cartel leader known as Commander Squirrel who they say is linked to the 2010 murder of American jet skier David Hartley on a border lake, as well as to more than 200 other deaths in Mexico.
After a gunfight on Saturday evening in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexican Marines captured Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, AKA the Squirrel or Commander Squirrel, who earned his odd nickname for his permanent smile and allegedly helped direct operations for the violent Zetas cartel in Coahuila, Tamalapais and Nuevo Leon states.
David Hartley's wife Tiffany says that she and her husband were jet skiing on Falcon Lake on the Texas-Mexico border on Sept. 30, 2010, when unknown assailants shot David Hartley in the head. Tiffany Hartley says she sped back toward the U.S. shore of the lake, and was unable to pull her husband's body onto her jet ski.
Hartley's body has never been recovered, and a Mexican official who attempted to investigate the death was found beheaded. Authorities speculated that the Hartleys had interrupted a drug transaction on the Mexican side of the lake.
In a written statement, the Mexican Navy did not elaborate on Martinez Escobedo's alleged role in the Hartley killing, but did say he was believed linked to hundreds of deaths. They alleged that he ordered the killing of 72 undocumented migrants who were found dead on a ranch in Tamaulipas state in August 2010, and was responsible for hundreds of other deaths.
"Squirrel is credited with being the mastermind of the deaths of 72 undocumented migrants in San Fernando," said the statement. "[He] is the alleged perpetrator of the narco graves found in Tamaulipas state, with more than 200 bodies and the execution of more than 50 people by his own hand in different parts of the republic, [as well as] the murder of David Hartley, an American citizen killed at Falcon Dam on September 30, 2010."
The statement also alleged that the Squirrel was responsible for the murder of the police official investigating Hartley's death.
According to Mexican media, Commander Squirrel's arrest was followed by massive "narco blockades," or street barricades, in Nuevo Laredo.
The Squirrel and five other Zetas suspects, including men known as the Cherry and the Stutterer, were presented to the media during a Mexico City press conference on Monday morning. Martinez Escobedo was not smiling in pictures taken at the press conference.