A suspected leader of the La Linea gang was arrested by municipal police in Ciudad Juarez, a border city in northern Mexico, city spokesman Manuel del Castillo said.
Julio Cesar Perez allegedly planned kidnappings, ran extortion rackets and ordered hits in Ciudad Juarez by members of La Linea, a gang that is considered the armed wing of the Juarez drug cartel, Del Castillo said.
The 31-year-old Perez, who went by the aliases Arturo Bautista and Javier Gonzalez or "El Mil Amores." will be officially identified by the Defense Secretariat in the next few days, the city spokesman said.
Perez was arrested along with three other suspects in an operation led by Juarez police chief Julian Leyzaola, Del Castillo said.
The gang boss was arrested Wednesday morning after several men traveling in an SUV fired shots at a woman, killing her outside a gym.
The woman apparently owned the gym in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, and had refused to pay the gang protection money in an extortion racket, police said.
Municipal police chased the gunmen, arrested them and found two firearms in the vehicle.
The suspects identified their leader, who was at a safe house in downtown Ciudad Juarez, police spokesmen said.
Perez and one of his right-hand men were arrested at the house, where police found firearms, tactical equipment, ammunition and drugs.
Perez succeeded former La Linea leader Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, who was arrested in July and allegedly had a hand in 1,500 murders, Del Castillo said.
Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, has been the scene in the past few years of a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels.
The cartels, backed by hitmen from local street gangs, are trying to gain control of smuggling routes into the United States.
Ciudad Juarez, where more than 9,800 people have been murdered since 2008, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.
The murder rate took off in the border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when 310 people were killed, then it more than tripled to 1,607 in 2008, according to Chihuahua Attorney General’s office figures, with the number of killings climbing to 2,754 in 2009.
More than 3,100 people were murdered in the border city last year, making 2010 the worst year since a war between rival drug gangs sent the homicide rate skyrocketing in 2008.
The killing has not slowed this year, with about 2,000 people murdered in Juarez.