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Thursday, May 27, 2010

UTEP Student is Slain in Juárez

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times

A UTEP student was one of two men killed in a roadway shooting south of Juárez during the weekend, a university spokeswoman confirmed.

A spokeswoman for the University of Texas at El Paso on Monday identified the men as current student Alejandro Ruiz Salazar and former student Jorge Pedro Gonzalez Quintero.

Ruiz, 19, was a sophomore nursing major who started last fall at the University of Texas at El Paso, spokeswoman Arleene Barrios said. Gonzalez, 21, was an engineering student enrolled at UTEP from fall 2006 to the spring semester of last year.

The hometowns of the men were not immediately available, but Ruiz was believed to be from El Paso.

The Chihuahua state prosecutor's office said the two men were traveling in a gray Jeep Cherokee when they were chased down and shot Sunday evening on the highway linking Juárez and the town of Villa Ahumada. The shooter was armed with an AK-47 rifle.

Investigators found Gonzalez dead in the front seat and Ruiz laying on the asphalt next to the vehicle. Both men had multiple gunshot wounds. Six bullet casings were located at the scene. The case is under investigation.

Some Juárez news media reported the men were coming from a Boy Scout camp, but state police said that information had not been confirmed.

"The family says they were students, but we don't know if they were students here (in Juárez) or in El Paso," Julio Castañeda, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office, said before the confirmation from UTEP.

Many UTEP students have family ties across the border, though university administrators had said student travel into Mexico for institutional purposes has been severely restricted since fall 2009.

The murders of college students and professors in Juárez has become more frequent as the violence in the city has raged for more than two years.

Last week, Roberto Eduardo Sotelo Martinez, a communication sciences student at the Juárez campus of the Autonomous University of Chihuahua, was killed. The university urged authorities to solve the murder.

During the weekend, homicides in Juárez surpassed 1,000 for the year. State police reported 16 murders Saturday and 11 murders Sunday.

The violence continued Monday with at least six killings, including the fatal shooting of a Juárez police officer during an afternoon bank robbery. Police said Pedro Peña Mena, 32, was shot in the head while standing guard outside the Santander bank at Las Torres commercial center.

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