The Mexican Mafia and the Conspiracy Behind the Tati Torrez Prison Murder

Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado. (AP Photo/Pueblo Chieftain, Chris McLean)

A rookie FBI agent spent a decade investigating the conspiracy around the murder of Manuel “Tati” Torrez, a high-ranking member of the notorious Mexican Mafia gang, la Eme. At The Atavist, Chris Outcalt reports on Torrez as “one of the graying old guard” of the gang at ADX Florence. Despite the fact that the federal maximum security prison was specially designed to keep its population of extremely violent inmates in “near total isolation,” Torrez was brutally murdered in the prison yard while the cameras were rolling. But who did it and why?

What came next was uncharted territory: an investigation of the first homicide in a place specifically designed to prevent violence of any kind. Instead of a shank or some other crude weapon, the killer had used fists and feet to pummel a fellow prisoner to a pulp. He’d committed murder in broad daylight, with cameras everywhere, yet avoided being caught in the act. Who had done it? And, more importantly, why?

Not yet 48 hours into his inaugural FBI assignment, Jon learned that he’d be investigating the first murder at the ADX, which had badly shaken the facility’s staff. A colleague explained that, as far as he could tell, the killing had everything to do with the Mexican Mafia.

“What’s that?” Jon asked. “Like a street gang?”

“No, it’s not a street gang,” his colleague replied. “It’s the mother of all street gangs. It’s like the Navy SEALs.”

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