Federal agents surveilling suspected members of a major drug-dealing organization were present in November when a man was shot in the chest while at a residence in Port Orchard on Sedgwick Road.
Neighbors reported three bullet holes in a nearby home. The Nov. 7, 2019, shooting took place near a Fred Meyer shopping center.
Federal authorities gleaned details of the dispute and shooting — before and after — by intercepting text messages and phone conversations.
No arrests or charges by federal or local police have been made for the shooting.
However, on Tuesday, 15 alleged members of the drug-trafficking organization linked to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in Mexico were arrested, and 19 have been charged in connection to drug trafficking in U.S. District Court. Both American citizens and those in the country illegally have been charged.
Meanwhile, following the shooting in November, members of the gang accused of trafficking guns, meth, heroin and fentanyl-laced opioid pills in and out of Western Washington remained free for nine more months and were spread out through the region, including Tukwila, Bellevue and Tacoma.
During this time agents intercepted threats to kill and beat each other. On two occasions — in Kent in June and Renton in April — suspected traffickers fired guns in the air during disputes and talked about killing people who owed them money, according to documents filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Major meth operations by Mexican cartels are not new to Kitsap County, where — according to daily arrest records — hard drug use remains common. Members of two separate gangs sentenced in 2018 in federal and Kitsap courts received 10-year prison sentences, about the same amount of prison time a person without a felony record would receive for a shooting charged as first-degree assault.
Agents reported shooting to locals
Western District U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, a longtime resident of Kitsap County, was not available Thursday to answer questions, according to spokeswoman Emily Langlie.
However, Langlie wrote in a statement that investigators prioritized public safety over the secrecy of the investigation. Langlie wrote this was demonstrated by agents calling Kitsap 911 dispatch centers to report the shooting.
“These calls to dispatch actually compromised the investigation because they aired sensitive information that was heard by at least one of the conspirators,” Langlie wrote in the statement.
In an attempt to clarify what happened at the shooting and the danger to the public, in November Port Orchard Police Chief Matt Brown disclosed to the Kitsap Sun some details and said investigators did not believe the shooting was random.
Brown did not disclose that federal agents had been monitoring the dispute inside the city limits and were the ones who heard gunshots and called 911.
“We don’t believe this is any risk to the public,” Brown said at the time.
Brown said Thursday that detectives are still investigating the shooting and are working with federal authorities. However, he said local investigators did not then, and do not now, have enough evidence to make an arrest.
“Nobody witnessed anything, from my understanding, and we have an uncooperative victim,” Brown said.
“If we could have made an arrest we would have made an arrest,” he said. “We do what we can but sometimes there are limits of what we can do.”
In a prepared statement Tuesday to announce the results of the investigation, Moran praised the Drug Enforcement Agency-led task force for taking a “bite” out of the gang’s network. Over the course of the 18-month investigation, authorities seized more than 100 pounds of meth and 10 pounds of heroin.
“This cartel is known as a violent and prolific drug trafficking group,” Moran said in the statement.
One way the traffickers transported drugs was by infusing candles with meth, which involved an apparently troublesome process to extract the drug from the wax once it arrived in Port Orchard, according to the court documents.
Between Halloween and Nov. 1, 2019, agents eavesdropping on suspects learned of the problems traffickers were having with the extraction process.
About a week later, Nov. 7, agents monitored threatening text messages between two people believed to have been involved in extracting the meth from the wax — Alysha “Mandy” Jones, 27, of Shelton, and Jose Elias Barbosa, 35, of Port Orchard, both of whom have been charged as part of the drug operation, not the shooting. Barbosa has also been listed as a resident of Tacoma.
“In the late afternoon, Jones threatened to kill Barbosa,” attorneys wrote in federal court documents. “Agents established surveillance at a residence in Port Orchard and saw Jones with two unidentified males outside. Jones and Barbosa then agreed to meet at a nearby Fred Meyer.
“Agents went to the Fred Meyer and followed Jones and Barbosa as they (in separate vehicles, each with additional occupants) drove back to the Port Orchard residence and parked in back, out of view. Agents then heard multiple gunshots. Barbosa would later arrive at a local hospital with a gunshot wound to the collarbone.”
Shortly after that, federal agents intercepted a call from “an unindicted co-conspirator” to Alan Gomez-Marentes — who was charged as a leader of the gang — in which the unnamed person told Gomez-Merentes “Mandy (Jones), she hit him.”
Jones, in another intercepted call, told Gomez-Martenes that “Prieto,” a nickname for Barbosa, had shot first but then an unknown man shot back, attorneys wrote in court documents.
Police found meth and guns
Bremerton police were notified that Barbosa had been shot and was in a car heading to Harrison Medical Center, which had been put on lockdown, according to reports released Friday by the department through the state Public Records Act.
In her statement, Langlie wrote that agents followed the car.
Two other men were in the car with Barbosa. Neither men appear on the list of people facing federal charges.
Barbosa, who was sitting in the passenger seat and bleeding heavily, was not moving and did not respond to officers’ demands to show his hands.
“The male does not have a left hand and his right hand was maintaining pressure on the wound,” a Bremerton officer wrote. “I asked if he had been shot and he said yes.”
An officer placed the driver of the car in his patrol car. When the officer removed him, the officer noticed that the man had emptied a bag of meth onto the seat and floorboards and then tried to smash it into the fibers, concealing the plastic bag under the seat, according to reports.
The man, Jaime Soria Cabellero, 38, of Kent, was charged in Kitsap County Superior Court with possession of meth. He has pleaded guilty and is scheduled for trial in August.
The other person in the car was identified as a 33-year-old Tacoma man
Bremerton police had a drug detection dog walk around the car, but the dog was distracted by the amount of blood and kept licking it, an officer wrote.
Barbosa was “uncooperative” with investigators, Brown said in November, though Brown did not identify him by name.
After being treated, Barbosa left the hospital on his own but would again run afoul of other members of the organization.
During a search days after seizing the car, Bremerton police found a pound of meth, a handgun, ammunition, two grams of heroin, a scale and drug paraphernalia, Brown said at the time.
In January, the Kitsap Sun requested Port Orchard police reports on the shooting but has not received them. Since the request, the city has given itself five extensions to turn over the records. The latest extension provided to the newspaper says the documents will be released by Aug. 16, 10 months after the shooting.
Brown said as of Thursday the shooting remains under investigation and, therefore, the documents could not be immediately released.
Suspects leave PO after shooting
Upon hearing about the shooting, Gomez-Martenes told those involved to clear out of the residence.
“Surveillance agents then saw a white van arrive at the residence and watched as Jones and others moved items from the residence into the van,” attorneys wrote.
Two days later investigators stopped the van and seized about 10 pounds of crystallized meth, two coolers with liquid meth in the process of crystallizing and one Igloo cooler that appeared to contain a mixture of meth and wax, according to documents.
Gomez-Martenes was arrested this week, but court documents say Jones is at large.
Further, in March, agents monitoring communications between suspected traffickers heard about a falling out with Barbosa along with threats to kill or assault him.
“Kent Police Department patrol officers were able to take Barbosa into custody on an outstanding warrant before anything happened to him,” attorneys wrote.
Despite being taken into custody in March, attorneys wrote that Barbosa is at large.
Other shootings after Port Orchard
Another man charged federally after being accused of helping distribute drugs and guns for the drug trafficking organization, Jorge Mondragon, was arrested June 19 when police in Kent responded to a reported shooting.
“Upon arrival, a witness stated that Mondragon had fired a single shot into the air,” attorneys wrote in court documents, adding that Mondragon was then arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle. Officers searched the vehicle and found a .22 rifle, a shotgun and an SKS rifle.
On April 20 agents monitoring communications between suspects listened to conversations about a dispute over an unpaid debt for a pound of meth. One of the men said he had gone to a house in Renton and fired three “warning shots” in the air. Renton 911 dispatchers confirmed to federal investigators they had received multiple calls for a “shots fired” and a GPS tracker on the man’s phone placed him in the area.
About 10 to 15 minutes after the shooting, one of the suspects called another to say he was going to go back to the house, “go inside, and shoot everyone,” according to court documents.
Reporter Chris Henry contributed to this report.