Guns on buses and slain police officers

Photo by Gregory Bull for the Associated Press via the LATimes

HONORING THEIR OWN: Federal police officers salute three slain colleagues, including acting chief Edgar Millan Gomez, in Mexico City. Authorities suspect he was betrayed by someone who knew his movements, according to Mexican media reports. Gregory Bull for the Associated Press via The Los Angeles Times.

This week, Mexico City has been living up to its bad boy reputation. Heading down Paseo de Reforma after a trip to the LATimes office on Thursday, I crossed over the main traffic artery and waited for the bus. The sun was hot and high in the sky and I was wilting in my jeans.

I noticed sluggishly that the police had cut off the road just ahead of the bus stop, but that traffic was dripping through slowly in their direction. so I got on the next pesero.

But as the bus waited in line, a young police man came round the side of the police car blocking the traffic, his pistol drawn. I was astonished. He jogged up Reforma, past the side of my vehicle, his dark eyes scanning the traffic and the sidewalk. He was looking for someone. His colleagues back at the patrol car were shouting things and waving their hands, and the bus got beckoned forward.

But before we could drive around the patrol car onto the empty round behind, we were stopped again. This time two young policemen boarded the bus – one from the front door and one from the descent door on the side. Both of them had their guns drawn – not pistols this time, but the small machine guns that many of them carry down here. I was standing in the walkway of the bus, near the front, and as the officer stood next to me, asking one of the passengers to open his bag, his pistol sat on my hip.

Interestingly, no one onboard batted an eyelid – perhaps this wasn’t such an unusual event for them. The Mexican public see guns every day on their streets, mostly wielded by the police force. In my year in Mexico City, however, I have never experienced anything like it.

It seemed that the police were looking for someone in particular- this was not just a routine check. Talking it over with a colleague, we speculated that it could well have been to do with the morning’s events, in which the head of the country’s fight against organized crime, Edgar Millan Gomez, was shot dead in his own home.

The last week in Mexico has seen the slaying of four police officers.

Gomez was shot at his home in the early hours of Thursday by an assassin waiting in his home. The police chief was accompanied to his house by four body guards, two of whom waited outside. Reports say that after being shot nine times, Gomez managed to question his attacker, asking him who sent him. Two of his bodyguards were also injured in the attack. Read the reports on the BBC, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and New York Times here.

“Commander Millán was the highest ranking official to be killed since Mr. Calderón’s campaign against drug dealers began. Intelligence officials said it was highly likely that he was killed in retribution for the arrest on Jan. 21 of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, one of the leaders of a cartel based in Sinaloa State.” NYT

Just a day later, when Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon was attending the funeral for Gomez and two other police offers killed in the line of duty this week , another police chief was shot dead – Esteban Robles, head of the anti-kidnapping unit of the Mexico City police department. He was shot several times outside his home – BBC and NYT reports here.

Media accounts of these attacks on Mexico’s police say sources are blaming the Sinaloa drug cartel.

“The Sinaloa cartel is one of several organized-crime groups that have grown rich transporting Colombian cocaine, locally manufactured methamphetamine and other illicit drugs to the United States.” LATimes.

Several high ranking police officials have been shot in Mexico in the last few months, for much the same reasons as Gomez.

“The Mexican police have been under constant attack since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2007 and started an offensive against drug cartels that had corrupted the municipal police forces and local officials in several towns along the border with the United States and on both coasts.
“Since then, Mr. Calderón has sent thousands of federal agents and troops into those areas to establish law and order, provoking retaliation from drug cartels that have killed about 200 officers, among them at least 30 federal agents.” NTY

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One Response

  1. Wow, never seen that before either. What part of Reforma were you on?

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