According to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin, the Mexican narco group Los Zetas may be planning to kill U.S. law enforcement officers in some numbers.
An open question is when and if Mexican drug traffickers will decide to go after U.S. law enforcement personnel — within the United States — in an organized way. Conventional wisdom is that Mexicans have restrained any attacks because they do not want to spark more intensive U.S. investigations and pressure. (At least one knowledgeable law enforcement source in the Southwest believes law enforcement has already been targeted.)
If there is one constant in the world of cartels and gangs it is change.
People, structures, operational methods, routes, the criminals’ risk assessments, and value judgments are all different now than they were even five years ago. The following bulletin to law enforcement warns of an obviously serious — although uncorroborated — threat from Los Zetas to murder U.S. law enforcement personnel from a variety of agencies.
Briefly put, Los Zetas are rogue Mexican special forces soldiers who were first hired as muscle and then transformed into a cartel-like drug trafficking organization. According to a DEA official quoted by CNN in a piece about Los Zetas, the group are responsible for a great part of the public violence in Mexico:
“The Zetas have obviously assumed the role of being the No. 1 organization responsible for the majority of the homicides, the narcotic-related homicides, the beheadings, the kidnappings, the extortions that take place in Mexico,” said Ralph Reyes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s chief for Mexico and Central America.
The following bulletin is genuine. The open question is whether the original source report was accurate:
Department of Homeland Security
Yuma Sector Border Intelligence Center
Officer Safety Alert
August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009
Yuma Sector Border Intelligence Center received information regarding synchronized attacks on law enforcement officers.
This information is uncorroborated; intelligence gathering is presently being conducted to verify the validity of this information.
Information received indicates that Los Zetas are planning a synchronized attack on law enforcement officers in the United States. Los Zetas have been planning to retaliate against American law enforcement personnel for several years. Los Zetas plan to kill American law enforcement officers by using potassium chloride.
Los Zetas have been targeting specific American law enforcement personnel on the Arizona, New Mexico and Texas borders who they want to kill simultaneously by injecting those individuals with potassium chloride: the third drug used in death penalty lethal injections. The Source learned that a high-ranking Cartel family member (Cartel was not identified) was convicted and sentenced to death by lethal injection in a Texas Court. Therefore, to retaliate for that death, Los Zetas have decided to do the same to American law enforcement officers.
The exact number of law enforcement officers targeted for the mass attack or who those law enforcement officers are, is unknown. Los Zetas have not provided an exact date for the murders to be conducted but the information received indicates it will be carried out soon.
According to the information received, Los Zetas have been identifying personnel from the DEA, U.S. Border Patrol, ICE and other federal, state and local agencies. They have been taking photographs, conducting surveillance, and studying specific targets on the Southwestern United States border.
All personnel and their families should be vigilant of their homes as well as remain cognizant of their surroundings at all times. It is recommended to change the times and routes of travel coming and going to and from your residence and place of employment. Agents should be alert for suspicious activity and if possible obtain license plate numbers and descriptions of suspicious persons or suspicious vehicles.
It would, of course, be foolish to ignore such a warning. As noted above, some law enforcement officials already see increased engagement north of the border. A reported instruction by the Sinaloa cartel’s Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman to fight back with force against U.S. law enforcement set off a flurry of such reporting, exemplified by these quotes from an article in the Los Angeles Times, “Sinaloa cartel may resort to deadly force in U.S.,” by reporter Josh Meyer (May 6, 2009):
The reputed head of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel is threatening a more aggressive stance against competitors and law enforcement north of the border, instructing associates to use deadly force, if needed, to protect increasingly contested trafficking operations, authorities said.
Such a move by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted fugitive, would mark a turn from the cartel’s previous position of largely avoiding violent confrontations in the U.S. — either with law enforcement officers or rival traffickers.
But near the Mexico-Arizona border, Robert W. Gilbert, chief patrol agent for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson sector, said confrontations between law enforcement and suspected traffickers — and among traffickers themselves — had grown more violent.
On the other hand, the lack of a named cartel death penalty “victim” undermines the supposed rationale for the supposed plan. A quick search of Mexicans executed in the United States in recent years did not reveal a likely candidate. It is possible that the original informant has conflated the Guzman story.
The alleged operational plan also seems odd, as it would require the perpetrators to kidnap their targets or get close enough to overwhelm them and do the injection. Armed attacks would seem on the face of it to be simpler and cleaner. On the other hand, the perversity of the narco mentality is difficult to overstate.