The operational coordinator of the State Intelligence Police Corps (CIPOL), Luis Prieto, was attacked yesterday morning while leaving a restaurant guarded by three of his highly trained armed bodyguards.
One of the bodyguards died at the scene, while Prieto and the others were critically wounded.
What followed was a sequent of events that revealed a process from the Joint Operation Chihuahua of dis-coordination, inexperience and lack of security operational tactics.
In addition to the CIPOL officers that were practically surprised by an armed commando, there was the case of the rollover of a unit belonging to the CIPOL that was escorting the ambulance which was transporting the wounded to the hospital. Two more officers were injured in the crash.
Subsequently, several soldiers were also hurt when their military vehicle in which they were traveling crashed as it took a red light. The military were on the way to support other lawmen who were investigating an SUV that was suspected of being related to the attack of Prieto. If all this wasn’t such a serious matter, it would be almost comical, more of a lampoon skit than a tactical operation responding to a critical incident.
And at the end, the huge mobilization deployed by the military and police did not produce any arrests.
The attack on the officers happened behind the church of San Lorenzo minutes after 10 o'clock in the morning and in the presence of dozens of witnesses who were at risk of being hit by the bullets.
In an attempt to save his life, state agents who were responsible to provide security for Prieto repelled the attack with gunfire, however one of them died and three of the others, including Prieto, were critically injured.
The onslaught perpetrated by the criminal cell against the Mexican police once again proved the failed capacity of the government to address the violent crime, specifically the task force "Operación Conjunta Chihuahua" (Joint Operation Chihuahua).
As never seen before, dozens of uniformed troops and police deployed without a sense of direction, visible fear and hesitation rarely seen among police agencies, to the extent of refusing to work together among each other and not to mention the inability to even preserve a crime scene.
Yesterday the office of the Attorney General identified the police officer killed that was acting as bodyguard as Gilmar Armando Hernández who had survived a previous attack and where another CIPOL agent, John Luis Armenta Gonzalez, was also killed.
Dozens of citizens caught in the crossfire said it was a "grace of God" that a fragmentation from a grenade launched by the sicarios (hitmen) did not explode, otherwise it would have been a slaughter.
Witnesses of the attack which occurred just outside the restaurant "El Potrero" said that the shooting was like an unexpected and devastating thunder storm.
"It started very sudden, it sounded like thunder at first. Not far were about 10 people waiting for the bus, others were sitting outside at my stand eating and when the loud thunder of bullets was heard, everyone ran inside buildings for cover, while others ran across the street without even watching for passing cars," said the manager of a taco stand.
In the street drivers were taking alternate routes to escape out of harm's way and backing up in opposite direction, while speeding away through red lights in a desperate attempt to dodge bullets.
"I was barely able to throw myself to the ground. I crouched down and ordered people to stay down on the ground as bullets flew over our heads" added a witness.
The side of walls in numerous building had several bullet holes and numerous vehicles were punctured by bullets, "but that is the least of the problem," he said. The screams of confused and traumatized people were heard as other people got on their cellular phones to frantically call for help.
When the sounds of bullets finally stopped, people realized that inside a police unit was the lifeless body of agent Hernández. Inspector Prieto and another officer where on their radio trying to tell their colleagues that they were injured.
A few minutes later several Red Cross ambulances arrived at the scene and transported the injured to the hospital. The ambulances were escorted by several CIPOL patrols at which time the leading police unit lost control of the vehicle while trying to negotiate a curve and the vehicle overturned injuring two more officers. Other ambulances would be needed to transport the additional injured officers.
Not long after the officers had been transported to the hospital a message was heard over the two-way radio warning about gunfire outside the building, causing another mobilization from members of different police agencies.
Officers stationed outside reported that a vehicle drove by and the occupants fired their weapons in to the air in attempts to intimidate them. But the local police would not be intimidated and to prove their point they requested the protection of the military just for in case the bad guys decided to come back.
Meanwhile in the parking lot of a shopping mall tenants reported that several heavily armed men got out of a blue GMC Envoy with Texas plates of 927HRF. Two men got out wearing black military style clothing, carrying short and long firearms, wearing what appeared to be body armor and very quickly with military precision boarded another vehicle, a white Suburban occupied by several other men and they drove away.
Weeks ago the blue Envoy had been reported stolen by tourist in a car jacking.
The officers arrived at the scene half an hour later and according to witnesses the vehicle had several bullet holes to the exterior body, several windows were smashed, a lot of blood could be seen smeared inside the vehicle and on the floor there was a fragmentation grenade. From the large amount of blood on the front passanger seat, it was apparent that a "sicario" (hitman) had sustained a gun shot wound.
"It took half an hour for the officers to arrive and they say we are supposed to have a permanent presence of the CIPOL in the city. That is what we pay for, but it is useless," complained one of the merchants.
A witness said that while police were examining the abandoned and apparent "get-away" vehicle, he saw a white Durango SUV with several men onboard who looked very similar to the ones who had fled on the Suburban after exiting the Envoy.
He said that he immediately gave this information to a preventive state police officer at the scene who responded, "what van? What van? " The police officer along with others standing around were hesitant, almost afraid to confront the individual suspects. None of the officers made any attempts to stop the vehicle as shocked witnesses looked at the attitude of the police.
"Go get them, check them out, but no. Nobody has any confidence in the police any more, they just come here and get in the way. Let's see, where are the helicopters? Why have them, if when they are needed, they don't use them?" asked one of the spectators.
Very angry, the agents of the CIPOL demanded that members of the municipal police leave the area and engaged in a heated verbal confrontation with each other right in front of the media and public who were witness to such spectacle.
The crime scene around the Envoy could not be secured because the CIPOL agents did not have any crime tape. They simply yelled at reporters and onlookers not to get too close to the vehicle because there was a grenade inside.
A few minutes later an intense mobilization of police and military was carried out in the southeast of the city, because it was alleged that they had located the suspects of the attack.
The neighborhood was taken by full frontal assault but again no one was arrested or detained. Through out the night there were reports of huge police and military operations all around the city, despite all that, the executions of other people continued during the course of the day.
To add insult to injury on the next day of the attack, during daylight hours, on busy streets and on plain view of traffic and the public, someone wrote a warning on a wall of the local elementary school that said: "This is only a warning, Luis Prieto, for being with Chapo Guzman (sic)." This message was seen on at least two different buidlings around town.
Now let's now jump into conclusions, because there is no official verification that Prieto was involved with organized crime, but it has been well documented that many times police have participated with the drug cartels here and in other areas. It is at least worth the effort to look at that possibility in this case. Also in past ocassions the drug cartels have attempted to incriminate police commanders and politicians with false occusations.
The Sinaloa cartel has a strong presence in Juarez and is at war with the other criminal organizations and against the govenrment's efforts to eradicate organized crime. Rumor has it that the government is sending 3,000 additional troops to Juarez, does that mean we should expect to see an increase in executions and mayhem? In Juarez you don't have to dress up for Halloween, it's scary as it is.
No La Libro
(he didn't clear it)
After several hours of fighting for his life Luis Prieto Convenor of the CIPOL died after being the target of an assassination Wednesday afternoon. RIP and may God have mercy on Juarez.
News of events in Spanish television: