Tyler James Yeager, a 39-year-old former scout sniper in the US Marines, has been arrested in relation to multiple home break-ins near Tijuana and is under investigation for possible involvement in two homicides.
Residents in the area, frustrated by a slew of robberies, started a private Facebook page and distributed flyers with Yeager's California identification card, which was reportedly left behind at the site of a break-in.
Mexican authorities said on Tuesday that he had been in custody since Sunday afternoon, when federal police arrived on the scene of an alleged break-in and found Yeager leaving. Yeager was reportedly armed with a shotgun.
The owner of the home walked in on Yeager and then flagged down federal officers on a nearby road, according to a federal-police report, cited by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The home was in San Antonio del Mar, a coastal strip south of Tijuana and north of Rosarito, where many residents are Americans.
Jorge Alvarez, the assistant attorney general for Baja California state, said prosecutors were getting ready to charge the American with using violence to burglarize a home, according to The Union-Tribune.
"Some neighbors mentioned that he could be related with homicides of some people in the area," Alvarez said. The assistant attorney general said authorities were looking into potential connections between Yeager and a group of people who could have been involved with the killing of two elderly people in the same area.
Yeager was reportedly already on the radar of Mexican authorities. In late February, officers searched a home, the owner of which was a relative of Yeager, that was the site of drug use and where authorities found false documents and vehicles reported as stolen.
Several Mexicans were detained, but Yeager escaped.
After residents of Tijuana's San Antonio del Mar enclave urge the capture of former U.S. Marine, he is behind bars: https://t.co/tdwc6Kks1Z pic.twitter.com/MZwaM2fHtL
"The day before yesterday we detained a foreign person for robbery with violence, of whom we were already aware of as one of the inhabitants of one of the domiciles that we raided," Alvarez said on Tuesday. "Moreover there were signs from neighbors that he was a dangerous person."
Yeager was found guilty in Montana of a 2014 sexual assault and of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2015. A warrant was issued for him after he didn't pay $1,185 worth of fines related to those crimes and failed to appear at a hearing.
Mexican authorities also said on Tuesday that Yeager was wanted in Montana. The US Consulate General in Tijuana would only confirm his arrest.
US servicemen have run afoul of the law in Tijuana before. In one noteworthy case, Andrew Tahmooressi, a Marine sergeant in Afghanistan diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was arrested in March 2013 while crossing the border while in possession of several loaded weapons, a serious crime in Mexico.
Update: On Sunday, April 30, a judge in Baja California ordered Yeager's release, saying "she didn’t feel 100 percent sure that he was afforded all of his entitlements according to the Mexican constitution," and agreeing that "all evidence derived from the arrest would be excluded."
Public records cited by The San Diego Union-Tribune show that Montana authorities issued a warrant for his arrest after Yeager failed to pay more than $1,100 in fines and failed to appear at hearing related two 2015 convictions.
Yeager pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor sexual assault and driving the influence of alcohol. Yeager's family said his previous criminal record was "all minor misdemeanors," and a spokesman described the assault misdemeanor as a minor domestic dispute.
- The 100 best books to read in your lifetime, according to Amazon
- 'Like bombs in a war': One of Brazil's most notorious gangs suspected of pulling off the 'robbery of the century'
- Mexico's unrelenting violence is climbing to new highs