The woman leading the police department in the northern Mexican town of Meoqui was slain while driving to work, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said Monday.
Hermila Garcia was named last month as chief of the 90-strong police force in Meoqui, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Chihuahua city, the state capital. In recent months, Meoqui had started to see some of this violence. A once peaceful town, the drug violence-related death tally has shot up to 40 deaths so far this year. Normally that death count would account for homicides over seven years.
Garcia was found fatally shot in her car at a spot near her home about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the town center, the AG’s office said.
Mexican federal police officers man a roadblock in the town of Meoqui, state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico, Monday Nov. 29, 2010 after the police chief of the town was gunned down.
Authorities suspect the police chief, whose prior experience included working as an investigator for the federal AG’s office, was murdered by gunmen working for drug traffickers or other organized crime elements.
"La Jefa," as she was known to her police agents, didn't carry weapons or have bodyguards.
"If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything," she was fond of saying when asked why she didn't have security.
Mexican media reported that Garcia was single and lived with her parents, whom she supported financially.
Silvia Molina, the top administrative official of the police department in Ciudad Juarez, the state’s largest city, was murdered in 2008.
Policing has become a job so dangerous that men are now shying away from such posts. The state of Chihuahua, which borders Texas, has three other female police chiefs. Just last month 20-year-old criminology student Marisol Valles was appointed chief of police in Praxedis, in the Juarez valley, a key drug smuggling route just across the border from Texas also in Chihuahua state. Why did a 20-year-old mother accept the position? No one else would. Her predecessor was kidnapped more than a year ago. His head was deposited outside the police station a few days after he disappeared. After that, no one came forward to fill the police chief vacancy for more than a year -- until Valles was appointed top cop by the town's mayor
Other women who have taken top policing jobs because no men would include two housewives: Verenica Rios Ontiveros and Olga Herrera Castillo, who took over policing jobs in El Vergel and Villa de Luz, both in Juarez, now known as the "murder capital" of the world due to its high murder rate. The Juarez valley has had more than 2,700 drug violence-related deaths this year.
Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, is Mexico’s murder capital, with more than 2,700 homicides so far this year and roughly 8,000 slain since the beginning of 2008.
The carnage is blamed on a bitter turf battle between rival drug cartels, itself part of a wider conflict involving the gangs and the Mexican security forces that has claimed nearly 30,000 lives nationwide over the past four years.
Chihuahua has accounted for around a third of all the drug war fatalities.