Hundreds of police officers and soldiers waged a three-hour gun battle against heavily armed men in Tijuana Mexico Thursday, as residents of a normally quiet neighborhood ran for their lives. One suspect was killed and six kidnapping victims were found dead after the shootout.
In the past week, 14 people have been shot and killed eight people in Tijuana, including two local police officers, as well as a district commander, his wife and his 12-year-old daughter.
In the most recent gun battle which began Thursday around 11 a.m. in the La Mesa neighborhood,reporters for Radio Red FM said that the gunmen fired with large-caliber machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Tijuana residents have told us they believe the violence will only get worse and that people are afraid to go out right now, avoiding public areas and keeping their children indoors.
Kidnapping Victims Executed During Tijuana Shoot-out
Four police officers were injured as a monthlong crackdown on Tijuana’s crime cartels escalated.
The working-class neighborhood of La Mesa resembled a war zone. Crying children streamed from an elementary school, escorted by terrified parents. People lay on sidewalks and streets as bullets flew overhead. Some huddled inside their homes.
The six abducted men were found handcuffed, blindfolded and shot execution style, federal authorities said.
Four suspects were arrested, including two police officers — one state and one city. All were being taken to Mexico City, a common procedure for organized crime suspects.
Federal authorities said the suspects were part of the Arellano Felix cartel, which has controlled crime in the city for years.
This week, gunmen killed three police officers, the wife and two daughters of one of them, and a young couple and their 3-year-old son.
The confrontation Thursday began in the morning as the three slain police officers were being buried across town. Police quickly scrambled to La Mesa, where officers had surrounded a house. Gunfire erupted as officers approached and they peppered the house with automatic weapons fire.
Later, bomb threats forced the evacuation of City Hall and police headquarters, but no explosives were found.
Police officials have said criminals are waging a campaign of terror in response to a crackdown launched in December by the city’s new administration.
To support the effort, the government sent 1,000 federal police officers to the state of Baja California last week, half of them to Tijuana. Hundreds of soldiers are also participating in the crackdown.
Hitmen from Mexico’s drug gangs are breaking traditional codes of honour by killing children in a chilling new chapter of a narcotics war that President Felipe Calderon is struggling to control.
In unprecedented attacks, gunmen killed a 3-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl and seriously wounded a 12-year-old girl in the city of Tijuana on the U.S. border this week as they targeted a senior local police officer.
Even hardened residents of Tijuana, where more than 300 people were killed in drug violence last year and severed heads were dumped on city streets, were shocked by photos of young Jose Luis Ortiz’s body riddled with bullets.
“How much longer must we wait for results from the military? Now the narcos are killing our children,” said a Tijuana shop assistant who gave her name only as Fernanda.
Ortiz and his mother and father were shot dead as they slept on Monday night. Gunmen apparently mistook the boy’s father for a police officer and had no qualms about killing the 3-year-old.
Moments later, they found the police officer they were looking for and murdered him, his wife and their youngest daughter. Their other child was wounded.
“This is a new strategy to attack children and families and respond to the government’s military assault on the cartels. The gangs want to sow panic and fear to overwhelm the authorities,” said Victor Clark, a drug trade expert at San Diego State University.
Over the past three decades, Mexican drug cartels hauling cocaine north to the United States have generally held to a code of honour that bans killing women and children and stops them from becoming addicted to the drugs they traffic.
Attempted Armored Car Hijacking Sparks Outbreak of Violence
Heavily armed men killed three senior police officers and six other people here hours after a foiled armored car robbery, the latest attacks apparently triggered by a crackdown on police corruption and organized crime.
Since Dec. 1, when Mayor Jorge Ramos took office promising to battle drug cartels, five officers, including three deputy chiefs, have been fatally shot gangland-style.
Gunmen Murder Deputy Chief and Family
Early Tuesday, gunmen stormed the home of Deputy Chief Margarito Saldana Rivera, 43, and killed him, his wife, and two daughters, ages 12 and 20. Late Monday, a substation chief and his deputy were fatally shot as they sat in a 1988 Ford Escort. The same gunmen are believed to have killed a young couple and their 3-year-old son in a suspected case of mistaken identity.
Mexican authorities suspect that the police officers were slain in retaliation for a foiled hijacking of an armored car in downtown Tijuana. Baja California Gov. Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan said at a news conference that law enforcement and organized crime are in a state of war, and predicted more bloodshed.
In December, the new deputy police chief of the border town of Tecate was fatally shot in his bed in front of his wife and child. In late December, the new police chief of Rosarito Beach survived an attack at police headquarters.
The surge of lawlessness is related to the change of governments late last year, experts say, as new police chiefs, generally regarded as honest, began cracking down on corrupt cops and organized crime. Criminals are now lashing back.
With Tijuana’s main drug cartel decimated by arrests and killings, some believe the disorder is fueled by a more dangerous class of criminal.
“Now there’s a struggle to survive among these leftover criminal elements . . . who are resorting to wanton acts of violence,” said David A. Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.
The latest round began Monday afternoon when police converged on gunmen attempting to steal an armored car off Avenida Revolucion, the heart of Tijuana’s tourist district, which has been flooded with police officers to improve security.
The robbers fled in a car, triggering a wild chase and shootout across the city that ended on a busy highway, with police killing one suspect and arresting four, two of whom were injured.
A few hours later, Jose de Jesus Arias Rico, the chief of the district where the suspect was killed, and his deputy, Elbert Escobedo Marquez, were fatally shot.
Authorities don’t know why Saldana Rivera was targeted.