A Review of the September 2005 Shooting Incident Involving
the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Filiberto Ojeda Ríos
Office of the Inspector General
In this Chapter of the report, the OIG sets forth the historical background regarding Ojeda and the Macheteros and details the FBI’s planning for the Ojeda arrest operation.
Filiberto Ojeda Ríos was born in Puerto Rico in 1933. According to FBI records and press accounts, Ojeda spent several years in Cuba in the 1960s and received training from the Government of Cuba as an intelligence officer. Ojeda returned to Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s and allegedly organized the Movimiento Independentista Revolucionario Armado, a pro-independence group suspected of several bombing attacks on the mainland United States during 1970-1971. In the 1970s, Ojeda allegedly fled to New York to avoid prosecution in Puerto Rico, and helped to found the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), whose stated goal was an armed struggle for Puerto Rican independence. The FALN was implicated in a series of bombings in the United States in the 1970s that killed six people and injured many more.
According to press accounts and FBI investigative files, Ojeda returned to Puerto Rico in the mid-1970s and helped to organize the Ejército Popular Boricua, also known as the “Macheteros” (Cane-Cutters). Until his death, Ojeda was the leader of and spokesman for the Macheteros. The publicly stated goal of the Macheteros is to obtain the independence of Puerto Rico by armed struggle against the United States government. The FBI considers the Macheteros to be a terrorist organization. A timeline of major events in the history of the Macheteros is provided in Figure 1.
The Macheteros have claimed responsibility for various acts of violence in Puerto Rico as part of their armed struggle. These acts included the murder of a police officer in Naguabo, Puerto Rico, in August 1978. In December 1979, members of Macheteros attacked a United States Navy bus, killing two passengers and wounding nine. On May 16, 1982, the Macheteros attacked four sailors from the U.S.S. Pensacola in San Juan, killing one.
The Macheteros have also claimed responsibility for numerous bombings in Puerto Rico. On October 17, 1979, the Macheteros conducted eight bomb attacks against various federal facilities across Puerto Rico. In January 1981, the organization used bombs to destroy nine U.S. fighter aircraft at the Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Later the same year, the Macheteros bombed three separate buildings of the Puerto Rico Electric Company. In 1983, the Macheteros fired a Light Anti-Tank Weapon (commonly called a LAW rocket) into the U.S. Federal Building in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, damaging the offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FBI. In January 1985, the Macheteros fired a LAW rocket into a building that housed the U.S. Marshals Service and other federal agencies in Old San Juan.
The Macheteros have conducted robberies to finance their activities, including the theft of $7.1 million from a Wells Fargo facility in West Hartford, Connecticut on September 12, 1983. The Wells Fargo robbery was one of the largest bank robberies in U.S. history.
On August 30, 1985, the FBI conducted a large-scale operation in Puerto Rico to arrest Ojeda and other alleged members of the Macheteros in connection with the Wells Fargo robbery. Because Ojeda’s conduct during the 1985 arrest operation was a significant factor in the FBI’s planning for the September 2005 arrest, we will describe the 1985 arrest in detail.
According to contemporaneous FBI accounts of the incident, at approximately 6:00 a.m. on August 30, 1985, a team of San Juan FBI and HRT agents converged on the apartment in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, occupied by Ojeda and his wife at that time, Blanca Iris Serrano-Serrano. One of the agents made loud announcements in Spanish and English, directed at Ojeda and Serrano, identifying the agents and declaring the FBI’s intention to execute an arrest and search warrant. The knocking and announcements continued for several minutes without a response from inside the apartment. The agents made a forced entry at 6:08 a.m. Ojeda fired several shots at the agents from a position at the top of a staircase inside the apartment. One of the shots ricocheted and struck an agent, permanently blinding him in one eye.
The injured agent was evacuated and the other agents took cover. Ojeda fired more shots in rapid succession down the stairs and threatened to shoot anyone who attempted to climb them. The agents engaged in a dialog with Ojeda, who demanded that the “leader of the FBI” come to the scene. At approximately 6:50 a.m., Ojeda agreed to allow his wife to leave the apartment, and she surrendered. The agents continued to urge Ojeda to surrender and instructed him to put his weapons down before descending the stairs. At approximately 7:00 a.m., Ojeda appeared at the base of the stairs holding a pistol in his left hand and an Uzi shoulder weapon in his right hand. The agents instructed him in Spanish and English to drop his weapons. According to the agents, Ojeda then raised the pistol. One of the agents fired at Ojeda. The shot struck Ojeda’s pistol and knocked it from his hand. Ojeda dropped the Uzi and was subdued by the agents.
Ojeda represented himself in his 1989 trial in Puerto Rico on the charge of assaulting the FBI officers during the arrest operation, arguing self defense. He was acquitted by a jury.14
Ojeda was released on bond pending trial in Connecticut on charges relating to the Wells Fargo robbery. On September 23, 1990, the anniversary of “El Grito de Lares,” Ojeda cut off his electronic monitoring device and announced that he had gone back underground to continue the struggle against the government of the United States.15 In doing so, he violated the conditions of his release and became a federal fugitive.
The United States District Court in Connecticut issued an arrest warrant the next day, charging Ojeda with bond default. In July 1992, Ojeda was tried in absentia in Connecticut and found guilty on 14 counts related to the Wells Fargo robbery, fined $600,000, and sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Prior to becoming a fugitive in 1990, Ojeda married Elma Beatríz Rosado Barbosa (Rosado). Rosado went into hiding with Ojeda.
FBI files indicate that since Ojeda became a fugitive in 1990, the Macheteros have claimed credit for one act of violence: the detonation of an explosive device causing damage at the super aqueduct in Arecibo, Puerto Rico in March 1998. Ojeda has periodically been interviewed by members of the print and electronic media in Puerto Rico, and his recorded speeches have been played at pro-independence rallies. According to media accounts and FBI files, in these statements Ojeda has reiterated that the Macheteros remain active as an organization and has continued to advocate an “armed struggle” for Puerto Rican independence. In 2003, Ojeda issued a letter reacting strongly to an FBI “wanted” advertisement that included a photograph of his wife. Ojeda described the Macheteros as “indestructible” and urged supporters to send him the names of FBI agents in Puerto Rico for future publication.
The Ojeda arrest operation was the culmination of a major investigative effort by the San Juan FBI that was led by Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Luis Fraticelli. Shortly after becoming SAC for the San Juan FBI in April 2004, Fraticelli made the apprehension of Ojeda a major priority. Fraticelli told the OIG that when he arrived in Puerto Rico, the San Juan FBI had assigned the equivalent of about 1.6 full-time agents to the Macheteros investigation. At Fraticelli’s direction, the San Juan FBI formed a Domestic Terrorism group, which was later upgraded to Squad status. By April 2005, the Domestic Terrorism Squad was staffed with 11 Special Agents, 4 Intelligence Analysts, and two Task Force Agents from the Police of Puerto Rico. The Domestic Terrorism Squad was utilizing the entire San Juan FBI Special Operations Group (SOG) for surveillance of suspected Macheteros and other associates of Ojeda and the other fugitives.
In early September 2005, the San Juan FBI agents concluded as a result of their investigation that Ojeda and his wife were likely living in a house located on a rural hillside in Hormigueros, on the west side of the island of Puerto Rico. (See Figure 2 – Map of Puerto Rico.) The FBI’s investigation also revealed the existence of a second house further up the hill on a dirt road. Although the first house was considered the most likely location for Ojeda, the San Juan FBI agents considered the possibility that the second house might also be associated with him. The San Juan FBI designated the first house “House 1” or “Site 1,” and the second house “House 2” or “Site 2.”
As shown in Figure 3, an aerial photograph of both houses and the surrounding area, Site 1 was located on the paved portion of a road called Camino Mon Segarra, and Site 2 was located on a dirt track extending beyond the paved portion of the road. Further investigation by the San Juan FBI revealed that both target sites were on “Finca Birán,” a property owned by an individual whom the FBI had previously identified as a member of the Macheteros.16 At this point, the San Juan FBI had not seen Ojeda at either house. The San Juan FBI became concerned that the remote location and rugged terrain would make it difficult to confirm Ojeda’s presence at either of these houses using conventional surveillance techniques.
On September 12, 2005, the San Juan FBI formally requested FBI Headquarters’ approval for the deployment of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) “to conduct a tactical assessment for the purpose of arresting Filiberto Ojeda-Rios.” The request stated that the San Juan FBI sought HRT support because the division had exhausted conventional investigative techniques and needed the assistance of the highly specialized HRT “sniper-observers” to approach the residences surreptitiously to determine whether Ojeda was present and to gather intelligence relevant to an arrest.17 In addition, SAC Fraticelli told the OIG that the San Juan FBI was concerned that Ojeda would likely shoot it out with the FBI again and that Ojeda might use grenades or explosives. He stated that the HRT had special expertise in dealing with such situations.
On September 13, 2005, FBI Executive Assistant Director Grant Ashley, who oversaw the division of which HRT is a part, approved the San Juan FBI’s request for HRT assistance.
The HRT is a component of the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), which was established to facilitate the “FBI’s rapid response to, and the management of, crisis incidents” by integrating tactical and investigative resources and expertise.18 Crisis incidents include terrorist activities, hostage takings, bombings, and natural disasters. CIRG is comprised of three branches: Operations Support, Tactical Support, and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.
HRT is part of the Tactical Support Branch, which also includes the Operations and Training Unit (known within CIRG as the “3-Shop”) and the Tactical Helicopter Unit. Based in Quantico, Virginia, HRT is “a full-time, national level tactical team” that, among other missions, deploys in support of FBI field division operations. The Operations and Training Unit supports HRT by managing the HRT training programs and providing “operations management, planning and oversight” during HRT deployments. The Tactical Helicopter Unit provides aviation support.
HRT is comprised of three squads: Blue, Gold, and Red. Each squad has an Assault Team and a Sniper-Observer Team. The squads rotate through three 60-day cycles of mission, support, and training. HRT trains for an array of missions in varied environments. The specialized training includes hostage rescue and barricaded subjects, mobile assaults, manhunt and rural operations, and helicopter operations.
On September 14, 2005, HRT deployed an advance team to Puerto Rico to conduct reconnaissance and assessment regarding the proposed operation to locate and apprehend Ojeda. The advance team included five agents from HRT and the Operations and Training Unit who later participated in the operation. The advance team received a briefing from the San Juan FBI on September 15 regarding the history and current status of the FBI’s Macheteros investigation. The briefing was conducted with a PowerPoint presentation that included biographical information about Ojeda and his criminal history, a description of the physical environment where the operation would take place, several pieces of recent intelligence obtained by the San Juan FBI concerning Ojeda’s wife and the target residences, aerial photographs of the target residences and surrounding area, and several maps of the territory. Fraticelli stated during the briefing that the purpose of the operation was to conduct surveillance on the residences believed to be occupied by Ojeda and his wife, and if Ojeda’s presence was established, to arrest him.
Following the briefing, San Juan FBI agents drove the advance team to the area where the target residences were located to conduct a site survey. The agents did not drive the team close to the residences because the access road did not have an outlet and the agents did not want to arouse suspicion. However, the team was able to assess the terrain and neighborhood by driving a perimeter route around the residences. Each member of the advance team told us that they thought the dense vegetation and steep terrain observed during the survey would present challenges to conducting surveillance of the residence, but no one questioned HRT’s ability to operate effectively in the environment. Special Agent (SA) Paul,19 who was responsible for determining the communications equipment needed for the operation, told us that he quickly realized only satellite communication – as opposed to land-based communication – would work between the agents in the field and the personnel at the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) because of the environment.20
The next day, September 16, 2005, the advance team met with senior San Juan FBI management and several San Juan FBI agents and analysts to discuss the team’s observations from the survey as well as specific issues about the proposed mission, including the sniper-observer team’s likely infiltration point and the duration the team could remain inserted. Following this meeting, Fraticelli decided to proceed with the operation using HRT resources. The advance team returned to Quantico, Virginia, that day and began mission planning.
One of the FBI’s most significant concerns about the operation was the San Juan FBI agents’ belief that the neighborhood surrounding the targeted residences was populated by Macheteros sympathizers. Fraticelli told the OIG that this belief was based on the fact that a known member of the Macheteros owned the property on which the target residences were located, and on the assumption that Ojeda would be hiding among people sympathetic to his cause. Fraticelli stated that the possible presence of Macheteros sympathizers increased the risk of compromise and presented a potential security problem during any attempted arrest of Ojeda.
Several members of the HRT advance team told us that they recalled agents from the San Juan FBI expressing concern about sympathizers during the advance team’s visit, and that the advance team factored it into its assessment of the proposed mission. For example, SA Peter,21 the sniper-observer team leader, told us that the combination of the residences he observed during the site survey relatively close to the target residence, taken together with the concern about Macheteros sympathizers that was identified by the San Juan FBI, were among the reasons he placed high importance on the sniper-observer team avoiding compromise.
As this report discusses in detail below, the concern regarding the threat posed by potential sympathizers figured prominently in the planning of the operation and was a critical factor affecting the tactical decision-making as the operation unfolded.
Following the return of the HRT advance team from its reconnaissance and assessment trip to Puerto Rico, the HRT Squad Supervisor prepared a first draft of a written operations plan. The Operations and Training Unit (OTU) assumed responsibility for finalizing the plan, formally referred to as the “Concept of Operations, HRT/SWAT Deliberate Assault Plan,” or “CONOP.” The CONOP is a standard 5-part order, covering Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration, and Command and Control.22 The CONOP serves as a planning vehicle and checklist to assure that all elements of a complete plan are in place. The CONOP is used both to brief managers, to prepare team members, and to facilitate operation rehearsals.
The final CONOP for the Ojeda operation was signed by SAC Fraticelli on September 21, although the elements of the plan had already been briefed to the HRT and San Juan FBI agents involved in the operation on September 20. The CONOP described the planned operation and the specific roles of HRT personnel and some San Juan FBI agents. The CONOP called for HRT agents from two different Squads (Red and Gold) to make up the teams of sniper-observers and assaulters for the Ojeda operation.
In preparing for the operation, HRT gave color designations to the four sides of the Site 1 house. As shown in Figure 4, facing the house, the front side was designated “White,” the left side was designated “Green,” the right side was designated “Red,” and the rear side of the house was designated “Black.”23
The CONOP specified two critical phases of the operation: a surveillance phase involving the infiltration of a team of HRT sniper-observers with the objective of confirming Ojeda’s presence at Site 1, followed by an arrest phase.
The CONOP provided that during the surveillance phase, a team of six HRT sniper-observers would infiltrate the area of Site 1 by foot and establish surveillance of the residence, with emphasis on collecting an image of Ojeda for transmission to the San Juan FBI in order to confirm his identity. The sniper-observers would also collect other information relevant to a potential arrest operation, such as determining the presence of vehicles, security systems, and other persons at the residence, and identifying the location and composition of “breach points” where the arresting agents could enter the house.
The CONOP also called for a Quick Reaction Force to be made up of HRT assaulters and San Juan FBI agents in 3 vehicles for each 12-hour shift during the surveillance phase. The Quick Reaction Force would be stationed at a location a short (8-10 minute) drive from Site 1. The function of the Quick Reaction Force would be to extract the sniper-observers in the event of compromise and to be prepared for arrest contingencies. In addition, the San Juan FBI Special Operations Group was assigned to provide vehicle surveillance at “choke points” where vehicles leaving from or coming to the residence were likely to pass.
According to the CONOP, the second critical phase of the operation would be the arrest phase. The CONOP stated that: “[b]ased on the information to date, an arrest of opportunity, [sic] Sniper[-observer]s, Vehicle Stop, or Deliberate Assault, appears to be the most likely arrest methods.” The CONOP did not provide any more detailed description of the arrest phase plans because specific plans would depend in large part on the results of the surveillance phase. However, a separate Course of Action outline was generated by the Operations and Training Unit around the time the CONOP was finalized and was used to brief the agents for the operation. This outline detailed various scenarios and contingencies for arresting Ojeda. For example, Course of Action #1 provided that if Ojeda was seen at the residence but did not leave, the first course of action would be to wait for him to leave and conduct a vehicle stop, and the second course of action would be to plan for a deliberate assault on the residence.
HRT Deputy Commander Steve24 told the OIG that HRT’s preference and primary focus was to make the arrest outside of the residence, such as in a vehicle stop while Ojeda was leaving or approaching the residence. Steve said that HRT hoped the sniper-observers would be able to report when Ojeda left the residence by car. Several other HRT agents also stated that a vehicle stop was the preferred outcome and that a deliberate assault on the residence was the least favored course of action during the planning phase.
However, Fraticelli stated that he was concerned about injuries to bystanders that might result from a shooting incident during a car stop, particularly in light of Ojeda’s history of violent resistance. Fraticelli said he therefore preferred that the arrest be made at or near the residence. SA Andy from the Operations and Training Unit also told the OIG that Fraticelli expressed this concern during the planning phase.25 But Fraticelli told us that he ultimately deferred to HRT’s expertise in planning the arrest contingencies.
The San Juan FBI prepared a Surveillance Operation Plan for the Ojeda operation. It cross-referenced the CONOP but provided additional details regarding the planned functions of various San Juan FBI personnel. The Surveillance Operations Plan assigned various agents from the San Juan FBI to such post-arrest tasks as transporting Ojeda to Miami, carrying out a search of the residence, and providing perimeter security. The Surveillance Operations Plan referenced a separate San Juan FBI SWAT Operations Plan, but it appears that no such additional plan was ever prepared.
Both the CONOP and the San Juan FBI Surveillance Operation Plan summarized the DOJ Deadly Force Policy and stated that this policy would be in effect for the Ojeda operation. As discussed in more detail in Chapter Five of this report, the Deadly Force Policy states, among other things, that DOJ law enforcement officers may use deadly force “only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”
The CONOP, the Course of Action outline, and the San Juan FBI Surveillance Plan did not address a scenario in which the FBI would surround the Site 1 residence and call for Ojeda to surrender, even as a least preferred course of action. Fraticelli told the OIG that he wanted to avoid a standoff or barricaded subject scenario because he was concerned that Macheteros sympathizers would assemble near the scene in large numbers and that it would be difficult to control the situation. Fraticelli told the OIG that he discussed the question of surrounding the residence with HRT Deputy Commander Steve, who reminded him that during the 1985 arrest of Ojeda the FBI’s approach was to surround him and call for his surrender but that Ojeda responded by firing an automatic weapon at the FBI agents. Fraticelli said that in light of this experience, Steve recommended that speed was the best strategy for dealing with the arrest of Ojeda.
Steve told the OIG that an approach of calling for Ojeda’s surrender before attempting an arrest was rejected in the planning stage because of Ojeda’s history of violent resistance to law enforcement and the Macheteros’ history of using explosives and automatic weapons. Two OTU agents told the OIG that Fraticelli made it clear from the beginning that he wanted to avoid a barricaded subject situation due to Ojeda’s history of violence and the possible presence of sympathizers in the area.
Steve and HRT Commander Craig26 both told the OIG that during the planning phase for the operation they decided not to utilize the CIRG Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU). Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Dennis,27 the Unit Chief for CNU, told us that he heard about the Puerto Rico operation on September 19 and immediately contacted Craig to ask if he needed CNU to organize a full package of negotiators to be deployed with the team. Craig said he told Dennis the negotiators were not needed because the operation was primarily a reconnaissance and surveillance mission. Dennis told the OIG that he advised Craig that the San Juan FBI team of negotiators was relatively inexperienced and that Craig should not rely on inexperienced negotiators with a subject like Ojeda. Nevertheless, Dennis said he accepted Craig’s decision and informed his unit.
Steve told us that he declined CNU’s offer because HRT did not have enough information to justify bringing a CNU negotiator to Puerto Rico and because he knew that the San Juan FBI would have its own negotiators available for that purpose.
Fraticelli told the OIG that although he wanted to avoid a standoff, he was aware that one could develop, so he made arrangements for two trained negotiators from the San Juan FBI to be available during the operation.
El Grito de Lares (The Cry of Lares) is an annual celebration held in Puerto Rico on September 23 to commemorate the 1868 revolt in the town of Lares against Spanish rule. El Grito de Lares is an important holiday in Puerto Rico, particularly among Puerto Ricans favoring independence, which has been likened to the Fourth of July.
Fraticelli told the OIG that the date of the celebration was taken into account in planning the arrest operation because the San Juan FBI received intelligence that Ojeda might leave his residence and attend the celebration in the city of Lares. Fraticelli said that Ojeda had in years past provided a recorded statement that was played at the celebration. According to Fraticelli, Ojeda’s possible attendance at a celebration in Lares presented an opportunity for a safe arrest away from the residence if the sniper-observer team was able to establish surveillance and detect Ojeda’s departure from Site 1. Several HRT agents told us that they were made aware of the event and the intelligence suggesting Ojeda might attend. These agents also said they viewed the event as an opportunity for a safe arrest.
HRT’s medical coordinator drafted a Medical Annex to the CONOP. He also was responsible for placing the appropriate medical equipment and supplies with the Quick Reaction Force vehicles and on one of the helicopters that the Tactical Helicopter Unit planned to bring to Puerto Rico. The medical coordinator told us that fairly early in the planning he learned that Ojeda had a cardiac condition. He therefore positioned most of the medical equipment with the Quick Reaction Force and placed a defibrillator – an item not usually part of the medical package – in the Quick Reaction Force’s communications vehicle. The defibrillator was placed with the communications vehicle because that vehicle would remain at a fixed location. The medical preparations were otherwise typical of most HRT operations. For example, the Medical Annex included important contact information and the locations and capabilities of the nearest medical facilities, Centro Medico Rio Piedras and Centro Medico Mayagüez.
The CONOP listed the Tactical Chain of Command from the top down as SAC Fraticelli, San Juan FBI ASAC Leslie, HRT Deputy Commander Steve, and HRT Red Squad Supervisor Doug.28
HRT’s Tactical Operations Center (TOC) was equipped with a secure satellite radio system to permit communications between the TOC, the sniper-observer team, and the Quick Reaction Force vehicles. Communications on the satellite system could be monitored at HRT headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.
The CONOP called for the use of two Tactical Helicopter Unit helicopters for the operation: a Bell 412, which carried a crew of three (two pilots and a tactical air officer) plus seven passengers, and a smaller McDonnell Douglas 530, which carried two pilots plus a maximum of three passengers on external pods. Both helicopters were equipped with fast rope rigs for dropping agents quickly without landing the aircraft. The CONOP did not call for using the helicopters to transport agents to the scene for an arrest operation. Rather, the helicopters’ planned function was to provide medical evacuation services in case of an injury and to evacuate Ojeda quickly after he was arrested, if necessary. The helicopters were also intended to be available to assist in command and control by relaying information to the commander at the TOC or by transporting him in the helicopter if needed.
The Tactical Helicopter Unit pilots flew the helicopters from Quantico to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The leg of the trip from Miami to Aguadilla was originally planned for September 19, but was delayed due to Hurricane Rita, which at that time was a tropical storm forming in the Caribbean. The helicopters left Miami on Wednesday, September 21, arriving in Aguadilla in the late evening.
VIII. Establishment and Organization of the HRT Tactical Operations Center and the San Juan FBI
On September 19, an advance party from HRT traveled from Virginia to a federal facility near Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, approximately 25 miles from the target residences. The advance team was responsible for establishing communications systems and infrastructure for the operation and coordinating with the San Juan FBI personnel supporting the operation.
HRT set up a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) in two rooms on the upper floor of a residence at the facility. In general, the TOC was staffed throughout the operation by HRT Deputy Commander Steve, up to three agents from the Operations and Training Unit, an Intelligence Analyst, and a communications technician. A written log was maintained by the Intelligence Analysts and other TOC personnel throughout the operation which recorded events and precise times as the operation unfolded (the “TOC Log”).
The San Juan FBI set up a Command Post on the lower floor of the same building. The San Juan FBI Command Post was staffed by SAC Fraticelli, two ASACs (including Leslie, who was designated second in command in the CONOP), the San Juan FBI Chief Division Counsel, and various agents from the San Juan FBI Domestic Terrorism Squad, SWAT Team, and Special Operations Group. A separate command post was established in the FBI’s offices in San Juan under the supervision of another ASAC.
One issue that became controversial in the days after the operation was the extent to which the Police of Puerto Rico (POPR) had been given advance notice of the Ojeda arrest operation. We determined that although the POPR was aware that the FBI had been attempting to locate Ojeda, and had provided some assistance to the FBI in this effort, the POPR did not have advance notice that the FBI had located Ojeda in Hormigueros. The POPR also did not receive notice of the arrest operation until after the exchange of gunfire between Ojeda and HRT agents, at which time POPR officers responded to the scene and established an outer security perimeter.
Fraticelli told the OIG that the POPR was aware prior to the September 2005 arrest operation that San Juan FBI had been actively attempting to locate Ojeda as part of its Macheteros investigation. Fraticelli told us that he learned that POPR itself had previously investigated Ojeda and the Macheteros, and had provided its work file on the investigation to the FBI on February 11, 2005.
Fraticelli also stated that on February 14, 2005, he met with POPR Superintendent Pedro A. Toledo Dávila (Toledo) concerning, among other things, potential POPR support for the FBI’s Macheteros investigation. Fraticelli said that he obtained Toledo ’s approval to reassign the two POPR officers working with the FBI as task force agents to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to work specifically on the Macheteros investigation.
Fraticelli told the OIG that he did not advise Toledo about the arrest operation, or even that the San Juan FBI believed it had located Ojeda’s residence in Hormigueros. Fraticelli said he did not do so because he wanted to keep the operation secret and limit the possibility of leaks to the public. Fraticelli also said that he had met with Toledo on June 11, 2005, and told Toledo that the FBI was close to locating Ojeda. He said that he told Toledo that the San Juan FBI would need POPR assistance with perimeter security in any arrest operation. Fraticelli said Toledo was emphatic that he did not want to know any other details but that Fraticelli should call when the POPR was needed.
In a meeting with the OIG, Toledo confirmed that the FBI did not inform the POPR of the arrest operation in advance and indicated that he thought the FBI was concerned about it being leaked by the POPR. According to subsequent news accounts, Toledo acknowledged that the POPR was generally aware that the San Juan FBI was attempting to locate and capture Ojeda, but he stated that “we knew nothing about Hormigueros.”
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