Threat probe leads to murder suspect

An otherwise mundane road menacing report helps detective close a 1999 killing in Veracruz, Mexico
by: File photo, Suspect Rafael Flores-Rosas, left, faces murder charges in Mexico after an investigation by Beaverton Police Det. Mike Smith, right.

A year ago, Rafael Flores-Rosas threatened a Beaverton driver.

Today, the 39-year-old is sitting in jail facing charges for a seven-year-old murder in Mexico.

Beaverton Police Det. Mike Smith led the investigation that resulted in the Feb. 12 arrest of Flores-Rosas in Bend.

Smith didn't realize his investigation would lead to a murder.

He started looking into a March 14, 2006, menacing incident, and eventually learned that Flores-Rosas was also a suspect in the murder of Angel Rivera, who was shot in the back, held down and kicked to death on New Year's Eve seven years ago outside a nightclub in Veracruz, Mexico.

In an unusual twist, the Beaverton menacing victim turned out to be Rivera's brother. With information provided by 39-year-old Fernando Rivera, Smith was able to track down Flores-Rosas.

'This is an extreme example of the best of the best in police work,' said Beaverton Police Chief David G. Bishop. 'Det. Smith should be commended for taking this investigation the extra mile.'

The initial menacing case was like those that typically drop through the cracks and don't lead to arrests, he added.

'But Mike picked it up and ran with it,' Bishop said. 'Through his efforts, justice will now be served and the suspect will be returned to Mexico.'

Smith said finding Flores-Rosas would have been nearly impossible without information provided by Fernando Rivera.

'I was just the conduit to get the suspect apprehended,' Smith said. 'Though it took several months, it felt good to be able to help this guy get justice for his family.'

Misspelled street

At about 2:18 p.m. on March 14, 2006, Fernando Rivera was stopped in traffic along Southwest Canyon Road near Hocken Avenue when a 2005 black Chevrolet Avalanche pulled alongside his car.

The Chevy driver reportedly yelled at the Beaverton man, telling him that he wanted to kill him.

'The victim's 3-year-old son was with him in the car,' Smith said.

Fernando Rivera recognized the driver who threatened him and drove directly to the Washington County Sheriff's East Precinct on Murray Boulevard to report the incident.

Rivera said the suspect was 39-year-old Rafael Flores-Rosas, a distant relative by marriage.

He also told authorities that Flores-Rosas was responsible for killing his brother, Angel Rivera, and wounding a second brother, Faraon Rivera Flores, in Veracruz, Mexico on Dec. 31, 1999.

Washington County referred the case to Beaverton in March, about the same time that detectives were investigating a gang-related homicide at the Center Plaza Apartments.

That murder investigation tied up Smith until September. After that case, he took over the menacing investigation.

During an interview, Rivera gave Smith a description of Flores-Rosas' Chevy and a possible address in Bend where the suspect could be living.

'Fernando told me that he heard through family that Rafael was living in Bend,' Smith recalled. 'He gave me a piece of scratch paper with the address number 625 and a street name that was not spelled right.'

Smith searched an online directory for a similar street name in Bend and turned up a match for 625 Olney Avenue.

He then contacted an officer with the Bend Police Department and asked her to check out the address and see if a black Chevy Avalanche was parked out front.

'She found the Chevy and provided me with the license plate number,' Smith said. 'When I ran the plate, I discovered that it was registered to Miguel Campos.

'I looked up his driver's license photo and it was the same as Rafael's.'

Smith's investigation found that Flores-Rosas used two assumed names in Oregon. In addition to Miguel Campos, he had a criminal history using the alias Francisco de Hernandez-Mata.

He also was wanted in Multnomah County on a warrant for driving under the influence of intoxicants.

'We held off on making the arrest until we could determine if he was wanted in Mexico for the 1999 homicide,' Smith said.

Out of the blue

Smith contacted the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement for assistance in the investigation.

The U.S. Department of Justice then got in touch with the Mexican Attorney General's Office to determine whether there had been a homicide in Veracruz, Mexico and the status of the investigation.

'Several weeks had passed, when out of the blue I got an e-mail,' Smith said.

On Feb. 2, Guillermo Fonseca of the Mexican Attorney General's Office Regional Attaché for the U.S. Western Coast e-mailed Smith and provided him with an arrest warrant from Veracruz for Flores-Rosas, a photo and an artist's sketch of Flores-Rosas.

After securing the Mexican warrant, Smith worked with immigration officials, who arrested Flores-Rosas on Feb. 12 as he was walking out of his Bend home.

Floras-Rosas will be deported to Mexico and turned over to law enforcement authorities.

Immigration officials declined to comment on where Flores-Rosas is being held, what he was charged with, when the deportation would occur and other details about his arrest.