American Cartel on ID is examining the 2003 murder of Police Officer Matthew Pavelka, whose death drove law enforcement agencies to intensify their efforts against gangland violence in California and ultimately led to the fight against El Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico.
On November 15, 2003, a seemingly routine check of a vehicle in Burbank, CA., led to members of the Vineland Boyz gang exiting their SUV with their guns blazing at Officer Matthew Pavelka and Officer Greg Campbell.
In the ensuing gunfight, Campbell was injured, and tragically, 26-year-old Pavelka lost his life. In return, the officers managed to kill one of the gang members, but the others were able to flee the scene.
The Vineland Boyz street gang had been terrorizing the San Fernando Valley area since the 1980s. The hoodlums had engaged in everything from extortion to drug trafficking and murder. However, the murder of Pavelka galvanized law enforcement to crack down hard on all gangs in the area.
The Burbank Police Dept. teamed up with the LAPD, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office to form a special task force to bring down the gang.
Police launched major operation to bring down Vineland Boyz
In 2005, the task force launched Operation Silent Night, which involved 1,300 Agents and Police Officers conducting multiple predawn raids against members of the Vineland Boyz across southern California.
Over the course of their investigation, officers discovered millions of dollars worth of cash and narcotics alongside a massive arsenal of weapons. Investigators were initially shocked at the level of violence and sophistication exhibited by the gang.
It was at this point that officers began to realize that the Vineland Boyz’s operations were interconnected with those of the Mexican drug cartels. They also learned that this massive criminal organization had roots leading all the way from Burbank’s local government to the El Chapo Guzman, the infamous head thug of the Sinaloa Cartel.
In the meantime, David Garcia was identified as the man whose gunshots had killed Officer Pavelka. He had fled south of the border to Mexico but was tracked down within weeks of the murder and was arrested in a particularly high-stakes operation.
A trial was postponed for years because of scheduling conflicts and medical issues, meaning it was 2012 before Garcia finally pleaded guilty in front of a judge to first-degree murder and a number of other charges. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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American Cartel airs in 3 parts from 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.