JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The head of the state police in Chihuahua is blaming a drug gang for attacks that left one officer dead and four others wounded in two cities over the weekend.
State Officer Sergio Martinez Gonzalez was shot to death and a second unidentified officer was wounded during a Sunday evening attack near Cereso No. 3 prison in Juarez. Minutes earlier, two officers patrolling the city’s public General Hospital came under fire; one of the officers sustained a gunshot wound and their assailant was killed, State Police Public Safety Secretary Gilberto Loya said at a Tuesday news conference.
Almost 300 miles south, two state police officers and a Cuauhtémoc municipal policeman were wounded hours earlier in separate attacks.
The criminal group that has been attacking the state police is the group known as La Linea,” Loya said on Tuesday. “They are organized criminals […] To attack us unexpectedly from behind shows we are fighting cowardly criminals who lack the courage to make a frontal attack.”
The state police chief said La Linea leaders are upset because of the firing of the entire municipal police force in Nuevo Casas Grandes, about 175 miles southwest of Juarez. The state police in May “disarmed” the town’s municipal officers after an alleged rapist was castrated, murdered and hung from the arch at the entrance of Nuevo Casas Grandes. Surveillance cameras on the arch were disabled and the roads apparently blocked off before the body was hanged.
“What happened on Sunday is the result of what happened two months ago. What prompted the attacks goes back to (the state police) recovering Nuevo Casas Grandes, where a police force was practically working on orders from organized crime,” Loya said. “This has brought about a series of altercations and threats against (law enforcement) institutions.”
Those attacks include the dismantling and damaging of surveillance cameras that are part of the Sentinel network being deployed throughout major cities in the state, he said.
The state police said the death of Officer Martinez and the injuries sustained by other officers are regrettable and will have consequences for the perpetrators. He called on residents to help the authorities identify gang members and criminal activities in their neighborhoods and called on his own officers to be careful and not to act precipitously.
“We call on all institutions to act with prudence but also with calm, so we do not lose control as we go about guaranteeing peace and safety in all communities,” Loya said. “This is not a fight between the police and the criminals; it is criminals attacking all of society. It is important to maintain unity and solidarity.”
Juarez recorded 101 homicides in July, with authorities saying most of them were drug-related.
La Linea, formerly a group of ex-police officers acting as hitmen for the Juarez cartel, in the past few years has been wrestling control away from the splintering Sinaloa cartel in various parts of Chihuahua, security experts said.