Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Juárez Massacre Leader's U.S. Citizenship is Not Clear

Friday, February 5, 2010 |

El Paso Times

The mystery surrounding the massacre of 16 people at a birthday party in Juárez over the weekend deepened Wednesday when Mexican officials announced that the alleged mastermind behind the slayings had been wrongly identified.

The alleged leader of group of gunmen was initially identified as Adrián Ramírez. Authorities on Wednesday said they believe the man's name was incorrect and have identified him only as Ramon, alias "El 12 or El Rama," said Enrique Torres, a Coordinated Operation Chihuahua spokesman.

But a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the agency believes the man killed is Adrian Ramirez Armendariz, a U.S. citizen from El Paso with a record of drug trafficking.

Mexican authorities, Torres said, got the man's name through the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System, or AFIS, database. The system reads palm prints and fingerprints.

Information, Torres said, indicates that Ramon had lived in El Paso for some time. He said authorities did not know whether he was a U.S. citizen.

Ramon, who allegedly led a hit team for the Juárez cartel, was killed about 3 p.m. Monday in a shootout with soldiers, Chihuahua State Attorney General's Office officials said in a statement Tuesday. José Dolores Arroyo Chavarria, 30, was arrested in the incident.

Both men, apparently, were driving away after a failed attempt to kill Daniel Elias Becerra Vicente, an alleged member of the rival Artistas Asesinos gang. They were in a 2002

Grand Am, which was reportedly stolen in the U.S.

The license plates on the car had not been reported stolen in El Paso, said police Detective Mike Baranyay. El Paso authorities, he said, have not received information from Mexican authorities about Ramon.

Ramon, who had an "EPT" tattoo on his abdomen, is not a known Barrio Azteca member in El Paso, said FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons.

The tattoo stands for El Paso, Texas, and has been a noted insignia used by the Barrio Azteca prison gang.

In a statement, Mexican officials said Arroyo told them he and Ramon were among those responsible for the shootings Saturday at a birthday party. The attack killed 16 people, ages 16 through 42, and wounded 12 others in the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood.

Ramon was ordered by a man known as "El Diego" or "El 10" to attack a party where there were said to be members of the Artistas Asesinos gang, which is reportedly affiliated with the Sinaloa drug cartel, Arroyo said.

The Artistas Asesinos is also known as the AA, Doblados or Double A.

Arroyo said he was a "halcón" (falcon), or lookout.

Ramon, Arroyo and at least a dozen other assailants sealed off the block of the neighborhood where the party was held and stormed into at least two houses. In the houses, people were sprayed with bullets. Many standing outside were shot dead.

Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza Terrazas visited the victims' families Wednesday to offer condolences. He said more arrests were imminent.

In a news conference Wednesday, Chihuahua Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez said that the high-school and college students might have been mistaken for gang members by the shooters.

"Right now, all our investigations clearly indicate the young people were innocent," Gonzalez said.

She said that some adults who were at the party could be members of a gang.

Gonzalez did not confirm whether they were involved with the Artistas Asesinos gang.

The shooters, Gonzalez said, were after rival gang members, but unfortunately opened fire on all of the people in the area. She said many of those killed were innocent people.

"The detained suspect told us his boss, 'El Rama' or 'El 12,' that night gave the order to hit them all equally. But they were looking for members of the Double A," she said. "In these colonias, Villas de Salvarcar and El Campanario, there is a dispute between these two criminal groups."

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