Four gunmen suspected in this week’s abduction and murder of the mayor of an affluent Monterrey suburb were captured Friday by Mexican army troops, the military said.
Word of the army operation followed an announcement by Nuevo Leon state authorities that five police officers and a traffic warden were in custody for the death of Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos Leal, whose body appeared a few days after his kidnapping last weekend.
The troops who apprehended the gunmen also seized handguns, AK-47 assault rifles, a rocket-launcher and several vehicles, a military source said.
The four suspects were found at a home in the Santiago residential development of Rincon de la Boca, but at least 17 other gunmen managed to flee and are still being sought, the source said.
Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza said the officers confessed to being involved in the Cavazos' killing, though some declared their innocence while being presented to the press.
One of the five Santiago municipal police arrested for the crime was directly involved in the abduction, Nuevo Leon Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza said earlier Friday in Monterrey.
Four other officers stood watch on the town’s main highway to alert the kidnappers if federal police appeared and provide cover as they drove away with the mayor, Garza y Garza said at a joint press conference with Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina.
The police suspects include the Santiago cop assigned as the 38-year-old mayor’s bodyguard, Garza y Garza said.
The Attorney General of the State (PGJE) identified the people arrested as police officers; Homero López Silva, Mónica Martínez, Antonio Rodríguez Gallardo and José Alberto Rodríguez Rodríguez who worked as the personal bodyguard of the mayor who was abducted on August 16 and found dead on August 18.
They are also detained Mauricio Roberto Mayorga and Traffic Officer Jose Javier Garcia Martinez who admitted having participated in the incident and said he received money in exchange for his work with the cartel.
Adrian de la Garza, head of the police investigations agency in Nuevo Leon state, told a news conference that the police officers received 6,000 pesos ($700) per month to cooperate with criminals "in different ways and different affairs," with some allegedly acting as lookouts.
"They were employees" of a criminal gang, De la Garza said at a news conference where he displayed security-camera footage from Cavazo's house (shown below), showing armed kidnappers arriving at the home on Sunday night in five SUVs.
The grainy video showed the vehicles turn on flashing lights, apparently to simulate police patrol vehicles, as armed men get out without any apparent resistance from the officer guarding the home.
Cavazos is seen being lead out of his home and forced into a vehicle at gunpoint.
The guard is then also seen getting into the front cabin of another SUV, contrary to his earlier statement claiming he had been bundled into the trunk of one of the vehicles and later dumped unharmed by the side of the road.
Gov. Medina, one of the hundreds of people who attended Cavazos Leal’s funeral Thursday in Santiago, vowed to remain “personally” engaged in the ongoing investigation.
Around 150 federal police arrived Thursday night in Monterrey, Mexico’s wealthiest city, to beef up security.
The reinforcements came a day after the powerful Coparmex business federation joined two Nuevo Leon organizations to take out full-page ads in major newspapers demanding that the government dispatch four additional battalions of soldiers and marines to curb violence in the border state.
A number of Nuevo Leon’s 51 municipalities are practically without police, as many officers have resigned in the face of threats from organized crime.
Five police officers have been murdered in the past few months in Santiago amid mayhem attributed to drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
Violence in the state has intensified state since the appearance in February in Monterrey of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned outlaws.
Cavazos Leal’s kidnapping occurred near the end of a violent 72-hour stretch that included a shootout between gunmen and the army in the Monterrey metro area and an attack on the Televisa office in the northern industrial city.
More than 200 people, including 30 police officers, have died in the gang war in Nuevo Leon, while the drug war has claimed more than 28,000 lives nationwide since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle with the cartels.
The surveillance video of the abduction of Cavazos at his home.