Monday, August 1, 2011

Taco vendor, judge, Iraq vet collar suspected thief

Burglary suspect James Dewey Bretthauer was taken into custody by City of Miami Police after being chased down by taco vendor Moises Gonzalez, seen here at his taco stand Taqueria Mexican "Orale!." Miami Dade County Drug Court Judge Deborah White-Labora and then held at gun point by Iragi war veteran Ian Vaquero. Bretthauer, using roller blades, grabed a camera belonging to Miami Herald Photographer Al Diaz who was on assignment to photograph the Taco vendor at 17th Street and 27th Avenue in Miami.

A suspected thief led pursuers on a chase that ended when an Iraq war veteran sorted things out the Miami way -- with a gun.
A subpoena just arrived for me as a witness on the case of James Dewey Bretthauer. The trial will be held August 8th. Here is the back story.


Heard the one about the judge, the taco vendor, the pistol-packing Iraq war vet and the thief on roller blades?
It apparently happened Wednesday when Al Diaz of The Miami Herald was preparing to photograph the Taqueria Mexicana Orale taco truck at Northwest 27th Avenue and 17th Street for a feature story. He briefly placed his camera on a chair to set up some lighting equipment.
Seizing the moment, a man on wheels snatched the camera and whooshed down 16th. Someone munching a taco yelled, ``That guy just grabbed your camera!''
Taco stand owner Moises Gonzales, incensed at the interruption, tore out on foot after the roller-blader. A food inspector joined him.
That's when Deborah White-Labora happened along. A judge in Miami-Dade's drug court, White-Labora was driving a white Scion minivan with her two children, 17-year-old Christopher and 20-year-old Amanda, having just visited the bank to pick up some travelers checks en route to Miami International for a flight to Peru.
Gonzales flagged down the van, barked out ``follow that man!'' or words to that effect, and the pursuit continued.
The minivan overtook a roller-blader at 3071 NW 18th Ter. Christopher bounded out of the car and ``pounced like a cobra'' on the skater, said Amanda. Gonzales, the taco maker, joined the fray.
Ian Vaquero, in whose front yard the chase ended, didn't know what to make of the wrestling match. So the Iraq war vet sorted things out the Miami way, drawing his 9mm Smith & Wesson and telling everyone to freeze.
``Thank God for the Second Amendment and armed civilians,'' said Christopher.
The final tally:
The skater, James Dewey Bretthauer, was hauled off to jail, charged with theft.
The judge's children made it to the airport.
Joe Zaragoza, a customer at the taco stand (and commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1608), was so impressed by the citizen intervention that he gave Gonzales and Vaquero each a $100 reward on the spot.
Diaz, who had to guard the rest of his gear while the others gave chase, got his $5,000 camera back, albeit damaged. He got a photo of the alleged thief, using a second camera.
``I never thought photographing food vendors would be a dangerous affair,'' said the veteran journalist, who has covered everything from armed invasions to fashion shows. ``But the taco stand owner, the drug court judge, the boy and the Iraq war veteran, they are my heroes.''

Here is the backstory to the backstory.
I photographed Miami-Dade’s drug court judge, Deborah White-Labora, in court a year prior to the robbery. The portrait of US Army Iraq war veteran Ian Vaquero appeared on the front page of the Miami Herald three months before the robbery.
This is drug court judge Deborah White-Labora in Miami-Dade Court, 2009. the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida was the first in the nation to implement Drug Court, a diversion and treatment program for drug offenders which is overseen by the Court. The Program offers drug offenders the chance to avoid prosecution, get off drugs and change their lives in a positive direction.

Ian Vaquero, is a veteran from the Iraq war. He served in the U.S. Army during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.


  1. It's not every day that my photo subjects come to my rescue.

  2. Hi Al, What a story! It gives me renewed hope that as a people, we still can stick together when it really counts!

  3. Mr. Bretthauer happened to be in jail with me. In an environment which everyone has an evil inclination to do wrong he was one of the few who has consistently tried to do right. He may have a drug problem, as I have for many years, and being clean and sober lets you realize the person you don't want to become when you are high. I'm fairly intelligent, and James could always challenge me with philosophical questions, on life, family, and doing the right thing. Its one thing to hear genuine remorse from someone as the victim of a crime and be doubtful, and another to hear it candidly from the source himself. Although everyone (including myself) finds this story ludicrous from the beginning, that is the only portion they know, not the ending, or changes someone has made to strive and do the right thing.