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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slain airman grew up in Juárez

By Darren Meritz and Adriana Gómez Licón /
El Paso Times

EL PASO -- David Booher, a model and actor before becoming a medic in the Air Force, died at the hands of masked gunmen in a Juárez strip club.

Booher, 26, was raised by his widowed mother in Juárez. He went on to become a staff sergeant and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo, but he had a keen understanding of the violence in Juárez, a friend said Thursday.

"A member of his family was kidnapped and murdered" in Mexico, said John Boyle, who served with Booher in the Air Force and now lives in San Diego.

Booher was one of six men killed when gunmen stormed the Amadeus club at midnight Wednesday.

A preliminary report released Thursday by the Chihuahua attorney general said investigators discovered Booher's body in a VIP section of the club. Somebody shot him in the head after he tried to help one of the victims.

In addition to Booher, police identified those killed as Omar Osvaldo García Ca brales, 32; Juan Antonio Hinojosa Maldonado, 29; Alvaro Dean Márquez, 25; Luis Fabián Carbajal Hernández, 24; and Luis Davis Tarín Triana, 30.

Investigators said they recovered nearly 30 shell casings from at least four weapons.

Details also emerged about one of the wounded, Jaime Alberto Arguelles. Mexican officials said he is a U.S. resident but did not have citizenship.

Mexican media reports suggested that Arguelles also was in the U.S. Air Force, but a military spokesman and Mexican officials said he was not. No other members of the American military were with Booher in the club, they said.

Arguelles was being treated at a clinic in Juárez.

Holloman Air Force Base has a policy prohibiting airmen from crossing into Mexico without permission. Whether Booher was allowed to go to Mexico to visit his family was unclear Thursday.

He was the first active member of the U.S. military known to have been killed in Juárez since the drug wars began in January 2008.

Booher was attached to the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman and worked on a medical squadron. Before that, he was stationed in Korea for about a year. His first assignment was at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Boyle said.

Booher lived with his wife, Myrna, at Holloman and had a son from a previous relationship, Boyle said. Booher hoped to obtain a nursing degree and become a commissioned officer, Boyle said.

Booher's late father was a U.S. citizen, but his mother lived in Mexico.

Boyle said Booher as a teenager worked as an underwear mo del.

Later, Boo her had parts in several movies, mostly as an extra.

As for the shootings, Boyle said, Booher was caught in an ambush.

"Dave was not one of the targets," Boyle said. "He was not involved in drug dealing or anything of that sort."

After the gunmen began firing, Booher tried to help one of the wounded. The assailants then shot Booher.

Another friend of Boo her's, Eric Estrada, said the airman's family, including his wife, were in Juárez on Thursday for a memorial service.

Officials at Holloman plan to hold a memorial service next week, but no specific date has been announced.

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