New FBI leader big on recruitment, aware of threat posed by Mexican drug cartels

Border Crime

Luis M. Quesada wants to add diversity to the Bureau, develop close relationship with border community

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A 24-year veteran of the FBI has become the Bureau’s new head in El Paso — one of the safest cities in the United States that happens to be across the border from one of Mexico’s most dangerous.

Luis M. Quesada is aware of this paradox and said he’s ready to work with community organizations to keep the momentum going in El Paso. He also points to recent success in the binational fight against two Mexican drug cartels.

“We have been working very closely with our counterparts in Mexico. We just had extradition of one of the subjects responsible for (American) consulate murders in 2010 and also extradited a suspect from the Sinaloa cartel,” Quesada said. “It was an extremely big deal. That was a horrific crime that occurred, senseless killings. … We’re going to continue this great relationship between the two countries to address these threats from these individuals.”

On Nov. 14, the Justice Department reported the extradition from Mexico of Jose Guadalupe Diaz Diaz, a.k.a. “El Zorro” (The Fox), who allegedly shot and killed U.S. consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton and her husband Arthur Redelfs on March 13, 2010, in Juarez, Mexico. Diaz was identified as a member of the Barrio Azteca gang, described by security analysts as street muscle for La Linea drug cartel.

A day later, American authorities announced the extradition of Luis Arellando Romero, a.k.a. “El Bichy,” one of several management-level members of the dominant Sinaloa cartel.

“Historically, we haven’t seen any spillover” of drug cartel violence from Juarez to El Paso, Quesada said. “I attribute that not only to the resolve of the FBI but also the other agencies that work strongly in concert here and also to the community itself.”

Having arrived to El Paso barely two weeks ago, the new FBI leader says he has no reports of immediate threats to the city but plans to maintain “consistent vigilance” on the border. “We have to keep the foot on the pedal and be constantly vigilant on these issues. Just like all law enforcement, we maintain vigilance on the threats,” he said.

According to the most recent FBI crime statistics, El Paso ranks 5th lowest in crime in the United States and 3rd lowest when it comes to violent crimes. The latter stat is likely to change when the Aug. 3 mass shooting at Walmart is taken into account. Twenty-two people died in that one event and 24 others were injured. By comparison, Juarez has recorded 1,300 murders this year.

To be fair to Juarez, whose police officials say 90 percent of the murders are drug-related, Quesada pointed out that thousands of people cross into Juarez daily and return unharmed.

“I’ve never been to Juarez, I don’t think myself I’d walk into Juarez without knowing (the city). It’s like any city, you don’t go if you don’t know the area. But I know that a large percentage of our population transits back and forth to work,” he said.

As for the massacre at the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall, Quesada says the Bureau continues working the case with El Paso Police, the El Paso County District Attorney and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The cause remains under investigation so he had no further comment on it. A lone suspected gunman, Patrick Crusius, remains jailed in El Paso pending trial.

‘We can’t succeed without the community’

Quesada, 54, was born in Florida to parents who came over from Cuba fleeing the Fidel Castro takeover in 1959. He grew up in Miami where he became a police officer.

Recruited in 1995 by the FBI, he investigated violent crimes like bank robberies, extortion and kidnapping in the Miami Field Office for three years. He worked in Puerto Rico for three years, came back to Miami and was promoted to supervisory special agent in 2003. He worked on counterterrorism until 2005, when he transferred to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, as a defensive tactics instructor.

He worked abroad as legal attache from 2010-2012 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and in 2014 in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, among other assignments. He’s been Special Agent in Charge in Jackson, Mississippi and most recently was Section Chief of the FBI’s Training Services Section.

Coming to El Paso, Quesada replaces former Special Agent in Charge Emmerson Buie Jr., who now heads the Bureau’s Chicago Field Office. Quesada sees himself working in El Paso for the next two to five years.

“Our priorities are to continue the great work that we are doing tackling the bread-and-butter issues like public corruption, gangs, violent crime child exploitation and human trafficking, and at the same time increasing our diversity pool,” he said. “I’m a big proponent for recruitment. In the later years of my career, I want to make sure I leave this agency better than I found it.”

Quesada said he’s looking forward to the interaction with community leaders. “We cannot be successful without the help of the community. They’re our eyes and ears,” he said. “We could put a police officer on every corner and still not solve all the crimes. We need people to communicate with us. If they see something, say something; if they know something, communicate with us.”

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