Stepped up search efforts yesterday by Mexican officials on Lake Falcon yielded no sign of David Hartley, the Texas man reportedly shot by “lake pirates” last Thursday while jet skiing and taking photographs with his wife on the Mexican side of a border-straddling lake. Hartley’s wife Tiffany says the pair were approached by three boats of armed people, who fired at them and shot her husband in the head. She said she was able to escape on her own jet ski.
Yesterday, Tiffany Hartley went back out on the water of Falcon Lake, accompanied by members of David’s family, and placed a wreath on the water. CBS’s The Early Show said she had laid the flowers near the site of the incident, while MSNBC reported that she stayed in American waters.
This morning, Tiffany Hartley made television appearances for the third straight day.
The extent of Mexican authorities’ search efforts have been in dispute all week. At the start of the week, the Hartley family said no search was taking place. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, who is leading the investigation on the U.S. side, said that a Mexican official had told him that search teams had been out on Friday and Saturday. Mexican officials said earlier in the week that they had yet to receive an official report needed to open a formal investigation, and Tiffany Hartley spent time Tuesday at a Mexican consulate reportedly filling out paperwork.
CNN reports that the lead investigator for the Tamaulipas state police, Rolando Flores, said that Mexican troops and sailors took part in the search yesterday.
“There are about 30 people, including agents from the National Defense and Mexican navy,” Flores said, adding that helicopters and watercraft were being used.
But Sheriff Gonzalez told CNN that Mexican authorities ended their search by dusk yesterday. He says they feared an ambush by drug cartels. TPM’s call to the Sheriff’s office this morning to ask about the Sheriff’s claim were not immediately returned. Yesterday, Gonzalez said that Mexican officials had invited him and his staff to assist in the search on Mexican waters — something the Hartley family had been asking for publicly — but he turned down the offer, “because it’s dangerous.”
Tiffany Hartley spoke on Good Morning America this morning, and said Mexican authorities had told her they would continue to the search today.
“They’re telling us that they’re going to go ahead and continue the search today,” Hartley said. “I think they said two kilometers each way around where I had showed them that David and I ran into them, into the pirates. And then they also are going to go along towards the dam.”
Hartley also spoke about the experience of being back on the water.
“It was hard, it was hard,” she said. “Just remembering everything about us going in, to go take the pictures and you know enjoying the sunny day and enjoying the nice weather we were having. And then just coming back, and then just the awful tragedy that we’ve had to experience.”
GMA also spoke with a man who witnessed Tiffany Hartley returning to American shores on the day of the incident. He asked to remain anonymous, and the show had his face blacked out and voice altered.
“There was something wrong, actually,” the man said of when he saw Hartley. “The way I saw her come about. It looked like something terribly wrong had happened. I mean, she was jittery, frantic, she was crying, sobbing.”
On the Early Show, Hartley once again confronted questions about the doubts raised of her account of the incident. She was asked if her jet ski had any evidence of the shooting.
“As for damage on his jet ski, I don’t know,” Hartley said. “My jet ski, I have no evidence, no, I have no bullet holes or anything. We do have a witness, that had seen me racing away from the boat, or a boat. I don’t know who he saw. But yeah, we do have a witness, yes.”
She also described her and David’s family’s state of mind at the moment.
“Right now I think we’re just kind of in a survival mode,” she said. “We’re just trying to survive. And we’re just trying to get through all this. And you know being in the media and stuff, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be kind of in a spotlight right now. Especially when we’re trying to grieve for David, and trying to get him home, and trying to plan all the services here and in Colorado. We’re just in survival mode.”
Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called speculation about Tiffany Hartley’s story “unwarranted,” and said that the federal government was working with Texas and Mexican authorities. The San Antonio Express News says that Mexico’s Foreign Relations Ministry issued a statement yesterday that “from the first moment” Mexican authorities have been in contact with their American counterparts.
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