Skip to comments.Surfer's Baja Tale Is Warning To Others (American Tourists Robbed And Raped In Mexico)
Posted on 11/19/2007 11:16:35 AM PST by DogByte6RER
Surfer's Baja tale is warning to others
Camping trip ended in robbery, assault
By Terry Rodgers
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
November 19, 2007
Pat Weber didn't plan on being part of a crime trend that has generated worldwide buzz this past week, but he didn't have much choice.
The Encinitas resident and surfing instructor got lost on a dirt road in Baja California last month while looking for a surfing spot called Cuatro Casas. He and his girlfriend decided to park for the night on a bluff overlooking the ocean.
Just after sundown, two men wearing ski masks approached Weber's motor home and ordered him to come out. He refused but surrendered after they fired a bullet through a window.
The assailants held a gun to Weber's head while they ransacked the motor home and took about $10,000 worth of items. They also sexually assaulted his girlfriend, Weber said.
It is the policy of The San Diego Union-Tribune not to identify victims of sexual crimes.
The Oct. 23 attack was one of at least six armed robberies and carjackings in the past five months that targeted surfers en route to camping spots in northern Baja. Some of the victims reported their experiences to the police, while others posted their stories on surfing and travel Web sites.
The Union-Tribune published details of the crimes Wednesday. Since then, blogs and TV and radio stations based everywhere from Southern California to Australia have covered the topic.
They have featured tourists who never encountered trouble in Baja and those who stopped visiting the peninsula's remote, picturesque beaches because of crimes that happened 10 or 20 years ago. A few included safety tips ahead of the Thanksgiving vacation stretch.
On Friday, a crew from CNN came to town to produce a segment about what Weber and his girlfriend went through.
I'm not asking for sympathy, said Weber, who said he went public to warn other travelers.
Weber said feels guilty that he couldn't defend his girlfriend, and he keeps second-guessing himself about the decision to camp in an isolated area. His sleep has been fitful, and he often feels a knot of emotions.
I'm like a piñata on wheels, loaded up and ready to be smashed open, he said.
Despite the trauma, Weber is thankful to be alive. (The gunmen) had all the cards, he said. It could have ended 100 different ways much worse.
Weber, 47, had logged more than 500 days in Baja and has taken dozens of students there over the past 10 years. Now he vows to never return.
I can't in good conscience take someone down there and say it's safe, because it's not, he said. For me, this is the end of an era.
On Friday, Weber invited friends and past students to a surfing session and potluck lunch at South Carlsbad State Beach, the home base for his San Diego Surfing Academy.
Weber said the group hug, his term for the event, will help heal his mental and emotional wounds. It's part of my catharsis, he said. I'm still numb and reeling from the experience. It's like a bad dream.
When the CNN crew showed up, Weber pointed out the bullet hole in his motor home.
That, I'm not going to get fixed, he said. I'm just going to plug it with a cork from a wine bottle.
Amid the rising concern about what some surfers see as sophisticated, paramilitary-style crimes in Baja, longtime visitors to the peninsula said tourists can take steps to reduce their chances of becoming victims.
They advised people to travel in caravans of two or more vehicles and to stay in campgrounds that have security guards. Some surfers urged campers to bring a dog and said it's a good idea to have a cell phone or rent a satellite phone.
When in Mexico at a remote site, you are vulnerable and you need to pay attention, said Kent Layton, who operates a fenced-in surf camp at Cuatro Casas called the Boat Ranch. Be proactive. Have a plan, and whenever possible, leave yourself an out.
Layton also recommends that travelers leave a copy of their itinerary with friends and family members.
That is a pretty broad brush with which you are painting .
i hate that also about the media. I think they minimize “rape” to “sexual assault” to protect the perps. SA absolutely IS rape -— most of the time — from a legal perspective. No one likes to hear “rape”.....
Why would one go there to begin with considering the state of the world????? Stay home and see our own country. There’s a lot to see right here.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the masked thugs who robbed and assaulted this couple were off-duty Mexican cops or federales.”
I agree completely.
I’ve been to Mexico several times and would only travel to the interior with a team and for the purposes of spreading the Gospel.
Mexico should be one of the most prosperous nations on the planet with its mild climate, natural ports on both sides of the country, abundant natural resources, and a great deal of oil. Unfortunately, the devil has bound this nation for hundreds of years with a culture of corruption that exists at all levels of the government. It is going to take a mighty work of God to remove this garbage from Mexico. It happens one life at a time.
Mexican Federales want their criminals and malcontents to go to the USA because it takes the spotlight off of their own greed and corruption, serves to weaken America, and avoids bringing about any positive change in Mexico. Illegal aliens in the USA are criminals that need to go home and bring about righteous change in their own country. If they continue to try to bring their corruption to the America, we may well have another war with Mexico in the next few decades.
And Mexico will lose bigtime.
I know tons of people who like going to Mexico because it’s cheap and beautiful and my response to them is always the same: I wouldn’t go there if it was free.
Read this related article from Surfer magazine a few months ago. In this report, it sounds like the criminals WERE the Mexican police...
“I’ll Never Go to Baja Again”
They were looking forward to surfing the uncrowded south swell. A pending protest at the border on Friday was sure to slow down the normal throngs of south bound surfers.
by Scott Bass
Senior Online Editor At-large
It was 4 a.m. Friday morning, August 31. Duke, Walt and Roger, three buddies from North San Diego County, were headed down to Mexico keen on surfing the predicted south swell. Their destination: San Carlos, Baja California for a Labor Day holiday weekend filled with surfing, kite surfing and relaxation. This was trip they had done many times before. Duke and Roger especially, having grownup in the Solana Beach/Del Mar area
Combined, the three men have been traveling into Baja for over 60 years. Duke and Roger speak fluent Spanish—Roger with a slight gringo accent; Duke with the native tongue. They were looking forward to surfing the uncrowded south swell. A pending protest at the border on Friday was sure to slow down the normal throngs of south bound surfers.
They drove in two trucks. A Honda Ridgeline loaded down with three surfboards, four kite boards, six kites, a dirt bike and all the camping gear and food to keep them happy and fed through Tuesday-as they didn’t want to get stuck in the returning border traffic on Labor Day Monday. Roger and Duke were in the Honda. Behind them followed their buddy Walt in a Toyota Tundra loaded down with five surfboards another three kites, two kite boards and more camping gear. Oh, and they had some beer, margarita mix and Hornitos Tequila.
They crossed the border at 4:30 a.m. and preceded toward the toll road, driving along the well-worn road that hugs the border and then climbs the steep hill toward the Tijuana beaches, the bullring and coastal destinations further south. It is the road that everyone who has ever traveled into Northern Baja has been on. And the guys were fired up and optimistic as they followed the road south and descended less than half a mile from the USA/Mexico border. Then the blue lights hit their rear view mirror. Cops.
They were being pulled over. “This stuff comes with the territory,” explained Roger. “Duke and I didn’t feel the least bit apprehensive; pay the cop for whatever bullshit reason he comes up with and move on. Good surf awaited.” The three surfers knew the drill; this area is notorious for the $40 Mexican cop shakedown. Duke, who was driving the Honda Ridgline and leading the two-truck caravan handed all his cash to Roger—except for $40 to pay-off the cop.
“Open the door, “ the cop said to Roger as he rolled down the passenger window. A handgun pointed at Roger’s eyes. “Open the f-ing door,” the cop said a second time as he slammed the gun against Roger’s right temple, reached in and pulled the door open.
As this unfolded, Walt, in the truck behind them and doing his duty as back driver in the caravan, pulled over behind Duke’s Honda Ridgeline and watched in the still, dusky light. ‘It immediately looked strange to me,” explained Walt. “The cops came out of their truck with their guns drawn. My first thought is that they were looking for drugs. I thought this wasn’t going to be a situation where we get out of it with a bribe.”
Within a minute there were two other cops/thugs all over Walt, demanding that he get out of the truck, before simply reaching in and unlocking the door.
In the meantime Roger, the passenger in the front vehicle, was being dragged out of the truck by his shirt at gunpoint. The Mexican carjacker was wearing a cut-off black wetsuit ski mask. “I offered the guy my wallet, “ explained Roger. “At this point I knew this was serious and I offered him everything we had, the car our money, everything.”
While this transpired Duke the driver of the Ridgleine also had a gun to his head and was being lead out of the car.
With a black semi-automatic gun to his head, Roger was led to the roadside guardrail by the masked man and into a dark, open lot with a formidable cliff 30 yards away.
Again Roger tried to reason with carjacker. “Take my money,” he said and handed him the $200 Duke had given him earlier. The car jacker directed Roger further into the darkness. Roger was getting closer to the cliff and deeper into the darkness. Again he tried to fend off the attacker with money. “I reached into my second pocket and threw a wad of cash at him,” explained Roger. “The $240 I had for the trip. It fell to the ground and the attacker looked down, grabbed a wad full and left the stray twenty dollar bills. He looked down at the remaining bills—$60 or $80 dollars-then looked at me, jerked me forward again. He wasn’t interested.”
Again Roger pleaded with the man to leave him alone. The attacker’s dark brown eyes stared at Roger and then twitched. “I think he was high— on coke or something,” explained the Roger. “His eyes were twitching. The man then continued to lead me further away from the others, into the darkness.”
All sorts of thoughts raced through Roger’s head. “I wondered if I should run. Would he shoot me? I was living in the moment. Instinct drove me, for better or for the worse.”
At the edge of the 100-foot cliff the man stopped Roger and stared him down. Below was darkness—a 100-foot cliff, trash and debris. Roger stood facing the street, his back against the pending overhang.
Meanwhile Walt, in the truck behind Duke and Roger, was dealing with his own nightmare. “One of the Mexicans jumped in next to me pushed his cocked gun into my face pushing my head onto the dashboard,” explained Walt. The cops or carjackers or Federales —nobody is really sure what they were or are—demanded that Walt get out. “The thug on the passenger side grabbed my shirt and put me over the road-side guardrail,” explained Walt. The Mexican forced Walt’s head over the guardrail and cocked the gun against the back of his head. Walt was waiting to die. Walt glanced up and out of the corner of his eye saw Roger down on his knees over by the cliff with a gun pointing on him.
“That’s when I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this guy shoot me here,’” explained Walt. “It wasn’t a heroic action by any means. I just wanted to move out, so I pushed myself up off the guardrail and started walking toward the big ravine that divides the USA from Mexico. That’s really when I thought, this is it, my life was over.” Walt figured the Mexican thug was going to shoot him in the back. After five feet or so, and without hearing from the man holding a gun to his back, Walt started jogging in a zigzag motion toward the cliff, hoping that if the attacker did start firing his gun, perhaps he would miss him. His plan was to jump off the cliff; at least he had half a chance that way.
The masked attacker that held Roger at gunpoint ordered him to get on his hands and knees and crawl down the cliff. It wasn’t a straight drop, but more of a steep incline. Roger groveled down until he found a ledge. He stood and looked up at the mask.
“It was dark, but I could see. My eyes had adjusted to the darkness. It would be light in about an hour,’ explained Roger. “The masked man stood there, with the gun pointed at my chest, both hands on the grip. I was now looking up, maybe five feet below his feet.”
The mask looked to his left as if awaiting a signal from the other thugs. He again stared down Roger and again turned to his left. This time he took his right hand off the handle and pulled the barrel forward and then back, cocking the gun. He inserted a bullet. The gun was now pointed down directly at Roger’s chest. The man in the mask turned and shot the gun, just above horizon towards the street. He said something, which Roger couldn’t make out and jogged slowly towards the vehicles.
Roger looked over to his left and saw Walt hunched over some twenty yards away. The two saw each other, said nothing. After waiting 30 seconds, maybe a minute, Roger and Walt ascended the cliff. “This cliff is a big cliff, and it’s right on the border and as it got light we could see America on one side and we’re in Mexico,” explained Roger. “We were just sort of freaking out. It was surreal. They could have easily killed us and no one would have known. The two walked up to their friend Duke and the three said nothing. They were in shock. But at least it was over.
Or so they thought.
There was van across the street, an older model van. Beat up. Rickety. Broken down. The kind of vehicle you often see in Mexico. There next to the van was its owner, an old Mexican man. The three surfers yelled out to the old man in Spanish and he acknowledged that he saw the entire ambush. “He said he was scared for us, but that he could do nothing because of his age,” explained Roger. “We ran over to him and the man opened up the sliding door of his van and Duke and I immediately jumped in, but Walt was adamant about not getting in this guys’ van. “The last thing I wanted to do was get in some strangers old van,” explained Walt. “It didn’t feel right.”
Walt eventually acquiesced and reluctantly hopped in the van. The old man closed the van door and the three surfers looked at each other anxiously like, ‘was this a good idea?’ Their sole focus was to get to the border, and this vehicle was going to get them there.
At this point Roger notices that there is a young man in his 20’s sitting in the passenger seat. “The fact that a younger guy was in the passenger seat which sort of freaked us a bit,” explained Walt. “After getting carjacked at gunpoint by Federales we didn’t really trust anyone.”
The old man turned over the engine in his van and it immediately started up. “I thought it was supposed to be broken,” explained Roger. “So I start thinking was this guy involved. It was very weird.”
The old man, the three surfers and the van start rolling down the hill, with the USA on their left and the sun rising brightly. At the bottom of the hill where the street next to the border fence flattens out, and less than a half mile from the carjacking, a Tijuana Police officer had pulled over a truck. A flat bed truck. The kind of flatbed truck that you tow other trucks with.
The three surfers tell the old man to stop his van. “We got out of the van to tell the cop about our carjacking incident,” explained Walt. The cop then did something rather unusual. He picked up his cell phone and made a call. He didn’t use his official police communications radio installed on his police truck. “I didn’t think much about it at the time, but thinking back on it, it seems strange,” explained Roger.
The three American surfers asked the officer to take them immediately to the border to file a report of the incident. “The cop tells us to get in the back of his police truck and we thought we were going to the border,” explains Roger.
But to the surfers dismay the policeman turns onto Avenida Revolucion into the seediest part of Tijuana and pulls over. The surfers demand that he take them straight to the border. The cop refuses. He suggests they get some cash (Duke still had a hidden credit card) from the ATM machine and hire a taxi to take them to the border. By this time the surfers are nervous, restless, and paranoid. They ask the TJ police officer to please file report on the incident but he refuses telling them that the incident happened outside of his jurisdiction.
Not what you want to see in the morning,
Fed up with the lack of regard for their situation, the surfers climb out of the cop’s truck and start walking toward the ATM machine so they can get cash for a taxi to the border. They spot another TJ police officer walking the street beat. It’s 5:30am on Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana and all sorts of sketchy people are around. Whores. Street people. Thugs. Drunks. The cop is on patrol to keep some sense of order. She is genuinely kind and concerned for the three Americans, and she directs Duke to the ATM kiosk.
Duke walks into the ATM machine kiosk and immediately two guys follow him into the ATM machine. “I was very nervous about it,” said Walt. “The woman cop ran over to Duke and basically guarded him from these two guys.”
With cab fare in hand and their focus still on the getting to the USA the surfers, with the help of the cop, hail a taxi. The women cop tells the cab driver to bring the Americans to the border and to not stop for anyone. “That part was little odd,” explained Walt. “It was like she knew something was going to happen.”
Walt, Duke and Roger got in the taxi and headed towards the USA, maybe three miles away from the border. “The cab took us on a one way street toward the border. Not unusual, I don’t think,” explained Walt. “Then I hear a loud truck barreling down the street behind us. It’s going like 60, maybe 70 MPH.”
The Nissan Frontier cuts directly in front of the taxi, slams on its brakes and skids to a stop in front of the Americans in the taxi, blocking it from going forward. “We all started screaming “Go! Go! Go!,” explained Roger. “It was scene right of the movie ‘Traffic.’”
Then another vehicle, a VW Tourig, loaded up with four Mexicans, screeches up behind the taxi and boxes it in from behind. The cab couldn’t move. All three surfers are screaming at the cab driver to move out.
Serendipitously, the driver positioned the cab in a manner so that she could escape from the two pursuing vehicles and the taxi bolted full speed to the border.
Carjacked and kidnapped and contracted for death, at this point the three American Surfers were completely spun. The would-be kidnappers pursued, but there were other cars around by this time as the commute across to the USA was filling up traffic.
They paid the taxi driver and bolted a hundred yards or so to the pedestrian crossing. They attempted to tell another Mexican police officer but again, no help. They crossed the border. They called 911. They called their wives. They were safe at last.
In hindsight Duke, Walt and Roger believe the masked carjacker was a police officer. According to the three, that may explain why he wore a mask and the other carjackers did not.
Another interesting note: According to the surfers, the carjackers all spoke fine English, with barely a trace of an Hispanic accent. The carjacking was very professional, and went down with a strategic polish one might see in the military. “These guys were pros, “ explains Walt. “Their guns were drawn and they were on us fast. Even if we had a gun, there is no way we could have acted.”
Mexico has always been a scary place. According to one report, more journalists have died in Mexico than in Iraq. It’s the Wild West. It is not safe. “I’ll never drive into Mexico again. I’ve been surfing in northern Baja for over 20 years and I’ll never go back,” explained Roger. “There is nobody that cares about you. Nobody. You are all alone and the bad guys are the good guys and the good guys...well there aren’t any.”
Surely, if he’d satyed in the US he would never get robbed.
Why would anyone consider going to such a place without adequate firearms?
“Are Robberies and Carjackings of Surfers on the Rise in Baja?”
From the Surfer Magazine article, this puts the screwed up nation of Mexico in its proper perspective...
“Mexico has always been a scary place. According to one report, more journalists have died in Mexico than in Iraq.”
If this is true, surfers may be safer hitting the waves in the Persian Gulf or windsurfing on the Tigris.
International transportation of human remains is very difficult no matter what countries are involved. A very lucrative market in such shipping and brokering has developed in Spain and other European countries - to get American tourists who have passed away while on vacation, back home. The bureaucracies are equally difficult in this regard, in nearly all cases. Sad but true, and not unique to Mexico.
This place sounds perfect as a testing ground of anti-personell concealable weapons like sound weapons, ultra high intensity flash sticks similar to flash bangs but silent, glue guns and my favorite the adjustable hi intensity frequency weapons that can cause the instant loss of bowel movements,acute pain, heat or nausea.
And every one of these types of “weapons” are real.
But even she bears a bit of responsibility. There's really no excuse at this point in history for saying that you don't know what Mexico and it's charming population is really like.
Sorta like walking into Tikrit and not realizing that an IED might have your name on it.
mexico is a sewer.
Don’t go whining about the stench and diseases if you choose to swim among the filth.
“Do tell me how Prez Bush is personally responsible for that. Please.”
Because of an “agreement” with Mexico that we will “recognize” convictions of Americans in Mexico and transfer their “Criminal Records” here. They’re subject to the same penalties as “Felons” convicted in our own Courts. Try that on for size!
When was that agreement reached?
This can't be true, they have banned guns in Mexico and we all know that criminals turn theirs in.
United States Supreme Court Rules on Convict Gun Ownership
26 Apr 2005
WASHINGTON -- People convicted of crimes overseas still can own guns in the United States, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In a 5-3 decision, the court ruled in favor of Gary Sherwood Small of Pennsylvania. The court reasoned that U.S. law, which prohibits felons who have been convicted in "any court" from owning guns, applies only to domestic crimes. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said interpreting the law broadly to apply to foreign convictions would be unfair to defendants because procedural protections are often less applied in international courts. If Congress intended foreign convictions to apply, they can rewrite the law... ( gunpolicy.org )