Saturday, June 26, 2004

Mexican police battle suspects in streets of Tijuana > News > Mexico -- Mexican police battle suspects in streets of Tijuana

By E. Eduardo Castillo
1:43 p.m. June 24, 2004

MEXICO CITY – Police captured the head of a squad of killers for a major drug gang during a spectacular shootout in the streets of Tijuana early Thursday, according to Mexico's attorney general, who said the group could be linked to the slaying of a local journalist.

Macedo announced the arrests at a news conference at which he displayed several high-powered weapons captured from the gang, including a 50mm machine gun meant to pierce light armor.

He said the gang was led by Mario Alberto Rivera Lopez, alias "El Cris," and he said the man worked for the Arellano Felix drug gang which officials have blamed for scores of murders of police, prosecutors, reporters and rivals in the drug trade.

Rivera and one other suspect had been flown to Mexico City, he said, while two others were hospitalized in Tijuana. A federal agent also was wounded, he said.

Macedo said that the group "could have possible links" to Tuesday's gangland-style slaying of Francisco Ortiz, an editor for the muckraking weekly newspaper Zeta.

A 1997 shooting of the newspaper's publisher, Jesus Blancornelas, had involved men linked to the Arellano Felix gang.

"Because of the way in which this homicide (of Ortiz) was handled, we believe it was this organization" that killed him, Macedo said, though he could not specify if the men arrested Thursday were directly involved.

Four women also were arrested in the operation.

Earlier Thursday, President Vicente Fox mentioned the arrests, saying, "We're dealing with drug traffickers, very important chieftains, one of them called 'El Cris.'"

"Once again we have struck hard against this type of group," the president said.

Local police say the incident began when their officers started trailing a seemingly armored car whose occupants roused their suspicions in the Loma Dorada neighborhood very late Wednesday night.

They called in help from federal agents, starting a chase through the streets that ended in a shopping center after midnight


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