Update: According to court documents, a Las Vegas man admitted painting the ominous messages and to cutting a hole in a fence to access a billboard.
Court documents say, Ryan Edward Jean, 25, voluntarily admitted to cutting a hole in a chain-link fence to unlawfully access property to access the south central billboard and painting the warning.
Surveillance video showed Jean entering the property through the hole in the fence, and climbing up the billboard around 2:15 a.m.
Jean told investigators it was a political statement that people were dying because of the drug war, according to court documents.
Fingerprints gathered at the far east El Paso billboard matched Jean’s and he was subsequently arrested, court documents stated.
Jean was arrested at the El Paso International Airport before boarding a plane. He denied any connection to the cartels during a police interrogation.
El Paso- Ominous messages were painted on billboards last week in the border city of El Paso, Texas, reminiscent of the deadly warnings by drug cartels that are commonplace in neighboring Mexico.
One of the massive signs read “Plato o plomo” (silver or lead), a phrase used by cartels to indicate you either take a bribe or a bullet. In addition, a mannequin dressed in a suit and tie was hung by its neck from the bottom of the billboard.
The hanging mannequin, although startling, was a toned down version of a cartel practice of hanging real dead bodies over highway overpasses, often meant as a warning against working with law enforcement or running afoul of the cartels that provide most of the drugs in America.
A second billboard defaced was a Drug Enforcement Agency billboard offering a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and capture of Rafael Caro Quintero. This one had the words “DYING FOR DRUGS” emblazoned upon it with a mannequin dressed in jeans and a shirt hung from it.
Phil Jordan, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who ran the El Paso Intelligence Center said, “Whoever did this went through a lot of work to get this accomplished,” according to the NY Daily News.
“This is possibly a message to someone who hasn’t cooperated with the cartels. But even if it’s a hoax, something like this is going to make the El Paso population uneasy, given that the city is not far from the killing fields of Mexico.”