Kim Dvorak, a conservative reporter in San Diego, has published a police message that she claims is evidence that a Mexican drug cartel really did invade the country in July and take control of two remote ranches near Laredo, Texas. And while local law enforcement says the message proves nothing, Dvorak’s latest report does provide clues to how the whole story came to life in the first place.
This week, Dvorak published her follow-up, unearthing a police document that she’s holding up as confirmation of the incident.
As you may remember, two weeks ago, Dvorak and another blogger, Dan Amato, published reports, citing anonymous law enforcement agents, that members of the Mexican drug gang Los Zetas had taken over ranches near Laredo, Texas. Dvorak said the raids “could be deemed an act of war.” The reports were widely picked up online. But law enforcement officers subsequently told TPM (and others) that no such incident had occurred. Police had received a tip about an incident, but when they sent officers to the scene, they found nothing out of the ordinary.
“Basically everyone was shrugging their shoulders,” Joe Baeza, an investigator and public affairs officer with the Laredo Police Department, told TPM at the time. “There was no proof or evidence that was found.”
Tuesday, Dvorak published an image of a “police blotter” describing the raid. Here’s the text:
On Friday 7-23-10 Laredo Webb informed that their county SWAT Team is conducting an operation in the Mines Rd. area. According to LT. Garcia with LSO (Laredo Sheriff Office) received a call from a ranch owner stating that the Zetas had taken over his ranch. As per the 17 (reporting person) he informed them that they stated La Compania (area name for Zetas) was taking the ranch and no one was permitted on the ranch without permission. SO (Sheriff Office) will have an unmarked green Ford Taurus with two officers stationed at Los Compadres and a white Chevy Tahoe with two officers stationed at Mineral Rd. The LSO (Laredo Sheriff Office) will maintain surveillance in the area and advise if action is taken. Susp (suspect) Veh (vehicle) are described as a gray or silver Audi, a BLK (black) Escalade or Navigator and a van truck with a logo of a car wash spot free on the side. Border Patrol also has their response team on scene. Also known info of BMW’s and Corvettes entering and leaving the area. Auth LT Lichtenberger if assistance is requested LPD (Laredo Police Department) will secure the outer perimeter. (07/24/10 07:42:10 NR1873)
Baeza confirmed to TPM that the image in Dvorak’s report is in fact authentic. The picture, he says, appears to be taken from the screen of a Mobile Data Terminal, the small computer found in police patrol cars.
But Baeza says the message was relayed to officers in the field as part of normal police procedure after receiving a tip. While the image does substantiate that officers received this tip, it does nothing to verify the tip’s authenticity. The Webb County sheriff’s office received a tip, sent officers to the scene to check it out, and informed the watch commander with the Laredo Police Department of their actions. That information was then sent out to officers, as a heads up.
“It’s not an official incident report,” Baeza said. “We didn’t file anything.”
“If anything, it proves the fact that the law enforcement agencies are talking to each other down here,” he said. “Our lives may depend on it.”
Still, the language in the message raises some questions, and Baeza acknowledged that there may have been a miscommunication somewhere along the line. For one, the message says that the Sheriff’s office “received a call from a ranch owner.” But according to Baeza, the Sheriff’s department “had information from a tip,” not a call from a rancher.
Furthermore, the message reported by Dvorak appears to have been sent out at 7:42 a.m. on Saturday July 24, the morning after the alleged incident took place, but also more than three hours after Dan Amato, also known as Digger, first blogged the news on his own website, citing a tip from Jeff Schwilk, the founder of the anti-immigration San Diego Minutemen.
Dvorak’s original story was sourced to two anonymous members of the Laredo Police Department, and Baeza said it was “entirely plausible” that her sources were officers who saw the watch commander’s message.
Baeza expressed dismay that the non-story continues to be an issue.
“She’s trying to save herself from criticism of going too far off a branch. I don’t care, I really don’t care.
“I would much rather worry about real things that are going on down here,” he said.
Dvorak did not respond to an email from TPM.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com