The Brownsville Herald
El Bravo de Tamaulipas
Authorities have linked Thursday’s double homicide on FM 511 in the northwest outskirts of Brownsville. Texas, to Mexican drug cartels and are investigating the killings as spillover violence from the Tamaulipas war between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
The bodies of Omar Castillo Flores “El Omarcillo”, 25, and Jose Guadalupe Lopez Perez, 38, were found inside a gray Dodge Ram pickup that was riddled with bullets, police spokesman Eddie Garcia said Friday. He said the truck had a Mexican license plate on the back bumper, and he identified both men as residents of Mexico.
At the crime scene, police recovered numerous shell casings of an unknown caliber. The Border Enforcement Security Task Force, a multi-agency group led by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, assisted police in the investigation but deferred all comment to Brownsville police as the lead agency in the case.
According to Justice of the Peace Linda Salazar, the pickup the men were driving was shot from behind several times. When they stopped on the median, the unknown assailants "finished them off," Salazar said.
On Friday morning, police discovered a Chevrolet Silverado pickup with Tamaulipas plates that Garcia confirmed as the vehicle driven by the suspected gunmen. It was abandoned in a driveway near the intersection of Tree Line Avenue and Cedar Trail Road.
Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia confirmed the information provided by Mexican law enforcement officials who stated that Omar Castillo and Jose Lopez were members of the Zetas criminal organisation and that Omar Castillo was the younger brother of former Gulf Cartel member Alberto "Beto Fabe" Castillo Flores
“Beto Fabe”, who served as a chief lieutenant with the Gulf Cartel, was head of the Matamoros plaza and was murdered in Matamoros last May under orders of Gulf Cartel leader “Tomy Tormenta”.
“El Omarcillo” was also the younger brother of Oscar Castillo Flores ,“El Apache”, the head of a Zeta cell operating in Matamoros. “El Apache” and his group belonged to a cell of the Gulf Cartel and switched sides to the Zetas after the Gulf cartel leaders had “Beto Fabe” killed.
Among the attacks attributed to “El Apache” and his cell was the attack on a Matamoros police station in June that resulted in the deaths of 7 municipal police officers who were allegedly working for the Gulf cartel.
“El Apache” was arrested in Brownsville in July and remains in federal custody. According to court documents, he was caught in a multi-agency operation that was led by ICE, along with cell members Luis Alberto "El Pelochas" Blanco Flores, and Jose Ezequiel "El Niño" Galicia Gonzalez.
“El Niño” Galicia attempted suicide by slashing his wrists and neck after his arrest. At the time of their arrest “El Apache” and the other two men had entered the U.S. illegally while fleeing a Gulf cartel hit squad that had decimated the Zetas in the Matamoros area.
A few days after the trio’s arrest in Brownsville, 15 bodies with signs of torture were dropped along a Matamoros highway, and sources have said the men were part of Castillo’s group.
At around the same time, the Mexican navy announced that it had arrested 12 Zetas that were also part of “El Apache’s” group at a motel in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, south of Matamoros. Authorities have said those 12 were among the 14 men killed several weeks alter at the Matamoros state prison.
Court documents show that both Blanco Flores and Galicia Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the charge of illegal re-entry to the U.S., while “El Apache” is facing trial later this year on the same charge. Records also show that Blanco Flores’ plea was part of a deal with authorities that was to give him a lesser sentence in exchange for cooperation.
Brownsville Police Chief: Residents have 'nothing to fear' from drug war spillover
Brownsville residents have “nothing to fear” from the spillover of drug war violence from Mexico, authorities said.
“The people that go about their business and lead a regular life really have nothing to fear from this,” Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia said. “If you are not involved in illegal trade or organized crime, this won’t affect you.”
Garcia said that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, police saw an average of 20 to 25 murders a year with a large part of them attributed to the drug trade.
“Back in the days of Juan Garcia Abrego, we actually saw more murders related to the cartels than now,” Garcia said. “Back then, Abrego controlled certain routes in Mexico and when another organization would try to move in they wouldn’t allow it. During that time, we saw more murders related to organized crime.”
“Hopefully it doesn’t get to that point again,” he said.
Thursday’s murders are an indication that the violence has crossed over but Garcia said the scope is minor compared to the 1980s. According to the police chief, because of the location and the way the murders were carried out, the hit is an isolated incident dealing only with elements of organized crime.
George W. Grayson, author of “Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?” and a professor at the College of William and Mary, said Thursday that drug cartel assassinations on the U.S. side were not surprising.
“It was just a matter of time before you found the violence spilling over,” Grayson said. “The Zetas work on both sides and reportedly some live on the U.S. side for security.”
According to Grayson, the recent border violence is attributed to a troika of cartels – the Gulf Cartel, the Familia Michoacana and the Sinaloa Cartel – who are “cooperating to decimate the Zetas.”
“They don’t care where they do it,” Grayson said. “If they can catch vulnerable Zetas near the border, they will take them out. This is a battle to the death.”
He said the troika of cartels is the lesser of two evils because they are simply businessmen who seek to make a profit through the commerce of narcotics while the Zetas are involved in more than 20 criminal activities and are a threat to public safety.
When asked about the ramifications of Gulf Cartel assassins working on the U.S. side, Grayson agreed with Garcia’s thinking that future incidents will be isolated and won’t necessarily affect the public.
“I was just in McAllen 10 days ago and I saw the people go about their business,” Grayson said. “I didn’t perceive that there was fear on the U.S. side that the war was spilling over.”
Grayson predicted that there would be future incidents along the border because of the tendency of various members of organized crime to take refuge in the U.S. However, Grayson believes that the law-abiding public will remain safe for the most part.
“It’s an all-out war, but the cartels have been extremely wary of killing foreigners and specially of killing Americans, not because they are ‘sacerdotes’ (priests) but because they don’t want to raise hackles in Washington,” Grayson said. “There is more and more concern in the intelligence, the anti-drug and military sectors of the federal government. The cartels fear if they are viewed as simply killing people every day on the north side of border, (it) could intensify Washington’s scrutiny of the border. This means not only more Border Patrol and National Guard but also the regular Army.”
Grayson foresees the drug war escalating until the Zetas are eliminated, a challenge because of their constant and resourceful recruiting.
“It might be premature to write their epitaph just yet,” he said. “I don’t see that happening until (Zeta leaders) are captured, convicted and extradited to the U.S.”
Heriberto “El Lazca” Lazcano and Miguel Angel “El 40” Treviño are believed to head the Zetas organization.