EL PASO, Texas — U.S. law enforcement officials have received an apparent drug cartel hit list that names 15 to 20 people living in New Mexico and Texas, officials said Thursday.
At least one police officer from southern New Mexico is named in the threat, said Luna County Sheriff’s Capt. Arturo Baeza.
The list, thought to be a threat from one of Mexico’s powerful and warring drug cartels, was provided to local authorities by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials June 12, Baeza said.
“We have been concerned for quite some time that this thing will spill over here,” Baeza said of a bloody fight for control among rival drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez, a sprawling city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, and Palomas, a small village across the border from Columbus, N.M.
Officer Chris Mears, an El Paso Police Department spokesman, said his agency had “no credible information” about violence spilling across the border into Texas.
“The El Paso Police Department regularly meets with and exchanges information with regional law enforcement on a local, state, and national level,” Mears said. “We do this to monitor the situation in Mexico so we can be proactive in protecting El Paso. At this time, there is no credible information suggesting that violence in Ciudad Juarez will spread into El Paso.”
Baeza said of particular concern to his office is that a local police officer, whose name and agency he declined to provide, was listed among the potential cartel targets.
“If it’s one officer, it could be more and they are just not saying,” Baeza said.
Baeza said the list included threats against 15 to 20 people living in southern New Mexico and Albuquerque, as well as current and former residents of El Paso.
He said his office has been told federal officials were contacting the people on the list, none of whom he would identify.
Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokeswoman in El Paso, said she could not comment on Baeza’s report of the hit list.
Hit lists naming police officers have become somewhat common in the ongoing cartel fight in Ciudad Juarez, a violence-plagued city where more than 400 people have been killed so far this year. Several of the officers listed as targets have been killed or wounded, while others have left their jobs amid ongoing attacks on police officials.
Amid the mounting death toll, a father and son from Odessa were found dead in a parked car last week.
Relatives told the Odessa American newspaper that Gerardo Gardea, 49, and his 24-year-old son, Oscar Gardea Jr., were killed in Ciudad Juarez on June 12. The family declined to provide details of the men’s deaths.
TEXAS IS ALREADY GEARING UP FOR THIS BATTLE
I’m afraid that the Cartels will escalate things beyond what LE can handle. ~Patriot
If you think you have been seeing an increased number of black and white highway patrol cruisers along U.S. Highway 277 and U.S. Highway 90 over the past several months, your eyes are not deceiving you. According to Major John Madden of the Texas Department of Public Safety, they have been assigned to Operation Border Star to assist local law enforcement agencies.
Operation Border Star is described by Governor Rick Perry’s Press Office as a “unified high intensity, multi-agency effort focused on reducing crime in targeted areas along the Texas-Mexico border.” It includes numerous state agencies such as the Texas Rangers, Texas Parks and Wildlife and others. It began in September 2007 following on the heels of two other special operations dating back to 2005 and 2006.
Madden said recently Border Star extends along the border in 42 counties from El Paso to McAllen and up the Coastal Bend. He declined to say how many units are working in the Del Rio area. Their numbers fluctuate depending on where intelligence reports indicate they are needed. He said they assist not only the sheriffs departments and local police departments, but state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Border Patrol.
The DPS officers are limited in the scope of their activities. “The Texas Highway Patrol is limited to enforcing state law. We can not enforce immigration law so we are not involved in that. The intent of the operation is to insure the quality of life in the border area,” he said.
While the operation is in progress, DPS patrols are heavily enforcing U.S. Highway 277 North of Del Rio, towards Sonora. What used to be a barren drive between the border patrol checkpoint just south of the U.S. Highway 277/377 crossroads to Texas Highway 55 22 miles south of Sonora, is more frequented by patrols. U.S. Highway 90 East, towards San Antonio also has patrol efforts stepped up.
One rumor that has been floating around town has them tied to anti-terrorism operations. When asked if that is the case, he said they are just pursuing their normal activity such as stolen vehicles and narcotic traffickers, but if they came across individuals who are involved in criminal activity or terrorism they would identify them and turn the information over to the appropriate agency. He said the DPS has not come across any terrorists.
As yet none of the people arrested by the various agencies involved in Border Star are involved in terrorism according to Allison Castle of the Governors Press Office. She said 500 illegal aliens from terrorist-related countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Jordan have been arrested since Border Star and its predecessors began in 2005.
“We have seen extraordinary results – upwards of 65% reduction in all crime and a 45% reduction in illegal alien apprehension since 2005. She added, “Enforcing the international border is clearly a federal responsibility, but border states and communities suffer the consequences of a weak security. Therefore, Texas has taken decisive action to protect the border and the American homeland.”
She added Border Star began in high-threat areas and it will be expanded to continuous high-intensity surge operations along the entire Texas/Mexico border. Texas, she said, is disrupting smuggling operations, putting the cartels on notice and securing the border.