by: The Monitor
Fatal gunshots volleyed from one vehicle to another along the expressway early Tuesday morning point to a power struggle within the Gulf Cartel, sources familiar with the victim said.
McAllen police continue to investigate the apparent murder of Jorge Zavala, 32, a Mission man slain as a volley of gunfire penetrated his Ford Expedition about 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Zavala and a 22-year-old man fell victim to the gunfire when an unknown shooter attacked their dark-colored SUV from a Chevrolet Tahoe with oversized rims as they headed west past the Jackson Road interchange.
Investigators believe the shots came from a semi-automatic rifle, but would not confirm how many struck the victims. The gunfire caused Zavala to lose control of the vehicle and crash along the expressway.
Police had no motive for the shooting as of Tuesday afternoon. But two sources familiar with the situation said Zavala had ties to Gulf Cartel members in Matamoros and Reynosa, which has shown signs of its own internal power struggle in recent weeks.
Zavala and another man were riding home from the Tex-Mex Lounge strip club, 2017 Owassa Road, Edinburg, when the shooting occurred, causing their vehicle to lose control and crash, McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez said.
Zavala died at the scene and the other man was transported to a local hospital where he was listed in serious condition Tuesday evening.
Police refused to say how many times the victims were shot, but preliminary autopsy results revealed that Zavala died from multiple gunshot wounds — not the crash.
A female employee at Tex-Mex said Zavala had been at the bar with a group of men. The suspected shooters were at the establishment, as well, but the employee refused to comment any further.
Public records show Zavala has a criminal history that dates to his youth. Offenses that date back to 1995 include arrests for burglary of a vehicle, tampering with government records, driving while intoxicated, theft of property, criminal mischief, failure to identify a fugitive and evading arrest.
Investigators could not confirm a motive for Zavala’s slaying Tuesday afternoon. But sources familiar with Zavala say his death could be part of a power struggle within the Gulf Cartel between two groups: the Rojos and the Metros, which have engaged in several grenade attacks in Matamoros and Reynosa in recent weeks.
Zavala had been a close associate of Gulf Cartel plaza boss Gregorio “El Goyo” or “El Metro 2” Sauceda Gamboa, 44, who was arrested by Mexican Federal Police in April 2009. He died of cancer while behind bars, one source said.
That connection to the Metros has made headlines in recent weeks, after a high-profile execution in Reynosa.
Samuel “Metro 3” Flores Borrego, 39, was found assassinated Sept. 2 alongside the body of a high-ranking Tamaulipas state policeman in the bed of a pickup truck along the Reynosa-Matamoros highway.
A Mexican law enforcement source confirmed and photos showed the Gulf Cartel kingpin and policeman’s bodies stripped to their underwear after they were severely beaten and shot in the head.
The execution brought the struggle between the Gulf Cartel’s two current enforcement groups to the forefront. Several sources have said Flores’ execution was part of the blood-soaked feud between the Metros and Rojos.
A local law enforcement investigator unauthorized to speak publicly said that same power struggle within the Gulf Cartel may explain Zavala’s slaying.
The attack on Zavala followed a similar Gulf Cartel hit in Brownsville last year.
That attack occurred in October 2010, when three Gulf Cartel hit men drove alongside a gray Dodge pickup truck and opened fire, killing Omar Castillo Flores and his bodyguard, Jose Guadalupe Lopez.
Castillo was the youngest brother of Alberto “Beto Fabe” Castillo, who at the time was the Gulf Cartel’s plaza boss in Matamoros. His subordinates carried out the execution after Beto Fabe’s younger brother, Oscar “El Apache” Castillo Flores, took sides with the Gulf Cartel’s rival, the Zetas.
The eldest Castillo’s execution cleared the way for El Apache to carry out a slew of revenge attacks and assassinations throughout Matamoros.
After the Gulf Cartel’s enforcers killed most of El Apache’s supporters, he fled with his family to Brownsville, where he was arrested by federal authorities and sent to prison after pleading guilty to illegal re-entry.
The Zetas once worked as the Gulf Cartel’s enforcement wing prior to their widely publicized split in early 2010 that has left much of northeastern Mexico awash in bloody street battles that have left an unknown number dead.
The turf battle between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel continues. But what may come of the latest internal struggle within the Gulf remains to be seen.
Hours after the murder of Zavala, grenade attacks were reported in Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Ciudad Victoria, while an intense firefight took place in Matamoros.