A picture of the Zetas message was posted over the weekend by Northwest Gangs, a website that chronicles gang graffiti and crime in the region. Here it is:
The site's author tells Seattle Weekly he found the graffiti in the South Park neighborhood on South Cloverdale Street above Highway 509, but has doubts about its authenticity.
Photo by Northwest Gangs
"I am very skeptical," says Brad, the site's creator, who chooses to keep his last name secret in order to guard against a potential backlash from gang members for his work. "I doubt it, but you never know I guess. It is the first drug cartel graffiti I've ever found in 8 years."
The Los Zetas cartel was formed by rogue members of the Mexican military special forces. The gang is notorious for gruesome violence, and was blamed in May for leaving 49 dismembered bodies on a highway outside the northern city of Monterey. A message that read "Z 100%" was tagged on a pillar near the crime scene, but the Zetas denied responsibility, claiming it was a ruse by their former allies, the Gulf Cartel.
A spokeswoman for the DEA's Seattle office says the "coming soon" message is unheard of on the American side of the border, and is probably not the work of legit cartel affiliates. "Although it is possible, we do not have any intelligence that graffiti is being used as such domestically by Mexican drug cartels," writes DEA spokeswoman Jodie Underwood.
Several Mexican drug trafficking organizations do, however, have documented ties to the Pacific Northwest. A series of meth and cocaine busts earlier this year targeted dealers reportedly supplied by the Sinaloa, La Familia, and Beltrán-Leyva cartels.
As for Los Zetas, in April 2011 Mexican authorities arrested a 34-year-old Washington native named Martín Omar Estrada Luna and accused him of leading the massacre of more than 200 migrant workers found buried in mass graves in the Zetas stronghold of San Fernando, Tamaulipas. Luna, nicknamed "El Kilo," was raised in the Yakima area and grew up a member of the La Raza street gang. He was deported in 2009, and later turned up in Nuevo Laredo.
Los Zetas operate throughout Mexico, but their power is reportedly concentrated in northeast Mexico, Guatemala, and areas along the Atlantic coast -- all places far, far away from south Seattle. So while there's a slim chance the South Park tagging is a warning left by some bonafide Zetas henchmen, it's more than likely the handiwork of some trifling wannabes. And that's a good thing. With all the gun violence lately, the last thing Seattle needs is a vicious Mexican turf war.