JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The murder of three young girls Sunday in a Juarez ranch was collateral damage in an ongoing war for control of Juarez’s Lower Valley drug corridor, a Mexican official said Wednesday.
In that same attack in the Riberas del Bravo neighborhood, an El Paso man was abducted and remains missing, and Mexican authorities are working with the FBI regarding his disappearance, said Jorge Nava, Chihuahua’s Deputy Attorney General.
The killings of Lindsay, Sherline and Arleth Sanchez Gordillo — ages 14, 13 and 4, respectively — have prompted Juarez residents and community leaders to express shock and dismay on televised interviews and on social media.
“As citizens, we are extremely saddened. As the authorities, our priority is to effect the prompt capture of those responsible for this cowardly act,” Nava said.
The police official said a “criminal cell of organized crime” was responsible for the killing of the girls and a 25-year-old man identified as Rafael Gordillo Gonzalez during an attack in which more than 100 bullets were fired at the entrance of the walled-off ranch in the middle of a working-class neighborhood near the Rio Grande.
On Monday, police officials in Juarez and in Chihuahua identified the assailants as members of the “Mexicles” gang. However, alleged gang members sent a communique on Tuesday and hung banners from two Juarez overpasses threatening to “go to war” with the police if the Attorney General continued to blame them for the attack.
On Wednesday, Nava avoided any direct mention of the “Mexicles” but said that all police officers in the city were on high alert. “We have gathered a lot of information and we are very near to placing a name and a face to the suspects very soon. There was a killing not more than two or three days ago as part of the struggle for control the Juarez Valley. This was a retaliatory attack on the part of the cell that controls the Valley,” he said.
The police official said several search warrants had been executed in the suburb of El Sauzal, near the site of the killings, and that some people caught with drugs and weapons were being questioned in connection with the case. “We have gathered a lot of information in the past few days. We are confident we will place the face and the name of those responsible very soon,” he said.
Asked about the “Mexicles” banners and communique, Nava said neither would affect the investigation. “Putting up a banner doesn’t exempt people from being investigated, doesn’t exempt them from responsibility.”
Nava also declined to name the El Pasoan abducted during the attack. He said the man had no prior criminal record, lives in El Paso but frequents the neighborhood where the attack took place. Relatives of the man have asked members of the news media not to disclose his name for fear he will be killed.