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American Cartel

American Cartel

  • Premiered: 
    March 30, 2021
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: discovery+
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Crime
  • Tags:

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Plot Synopsis

AMERICAN CARTEL is a three-part documentary series that explores the story behind the murder of a police officer in Burbank, CA, which sparked an unprecedented manhunt that revealed clues about a local street gang connected to Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels. On the night of November 15, 2003, shots were fired in the parking lot of a hotel in Burbank, California. The shootout led to the execution-style murder of Officer Matthew Pavelka and left Officer Gregory Campbell critically injured. With one of their own taken and another's life hanging in the balance, Burbank PD immediately called in support from dozens of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to unite on an epic scale and track down Pavelka's killer. The unprecedented manhunt quickly lead them to the heart of gang territory where they made a series of unsettling discoveries about the local Vineland Boys gang, whose caches of automatic weapons and high-grade methamphetamines suggested they were more violent, more sophisticated and stealthier than previously thought. Once they realize their suspect, David Garcia, seemingly vanished in the night across the border, they discover that the Vineland Boys' connections to Mexico's most dangerous drug cartels is very real -- and very deadly.

After two weeks of exhaustive work and the collaboration of multiple law enforcement agencies, the hunt for David Garcia comes to an end with a high-stakes operation South of the border. The battle for Officer Pavelka's killer is won, but the war against the gang that created him is just beginning. Top-tier investigators create a Task Force which soon grows into an unprecedented Federal wiretap case, revealing a web of narcotics and violence. The staggering criminal enterprise stretches across America, including infiltrating Burbank's own local government, with roots that run all the way to El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel.

What began as a race to find a cop killer quickly becomes a mission to take down a gang that brought the drugs and violence of the cartels to American suburbs, and exposes how Mexican cartels were already deeply entrenched in the U.S. American Cartel showcases commentary from many of the law enforcement members who worked tirelessly to bring Pavelka's killer to justice, including Ret. Det. Gregory Campbell (Burbank PD) who survived the incident. The doc also showcases U.S. Marshals and various representatives from the LAPD including members from their Gang Unit, SWAT, Special Operations, and members of the Major Crimes Unit, such as s Ret. Lt. Adam Bercovici, who lent his investigators and surveillance teams to the manhunt and later the task force. Additionally, providing his own expert insight, an ex "Mexican Mafia" gang member in silhouette and disguised as "Mundo" sheds light into the innerworkings of the gangs and their ties to the Mexican cartels. His identity remains anonymous.

All three 45-minute episodes of AMERICAN CARTEL dropped on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 on discovery+.

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Breaklight Pictures


  • - Los Angeles, California USA