EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Chihuahua state police is again sending officers to Nuevo Casas Grandes, following the murder of another public servant.
On Thursday night, state police Officer Rafael Martinez Melendez was shot to death while providing security for mayoral candidate Yuriel Armando Gonzalez Lara, who was also killed. Both men were gunned down at 10:15 p.m. outside the offices of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the state police said in a statement.
Martinez, an officer assigned to the State Security Commission (CES), carried a .40-caliber Beretta at the time of his death. Investigators found spent shells of .223 and 7.62mm caliber bullets near the bodies, consistent with AR-15 and AK-47 rifles. The state police said on Friday it was looking for a vehicle possibly involved in the attack.
The candidate’s murder also drew a response by PRI state chairman Alejandro Dominguez. “I am sorry for the passing of our candidate,” he tweeted. “We express our condolences to his family and demand a prompt investigation by the authorities.”
On his Facebook page, the candidate offered this description of himself: “I am a family man. My wife and three children are my daily motivation. Lawyer by trade versed in different areas of criminal law. I was a judge in the state judicial system.”
Dominguez told the Mexico City portal Milenio that he spoke to Gonzalez just a few days before the attack and that the mayoral candidate had not received threats. The PRI state chairman said he’s asking state and federal authorities to guarantee people’s safety.
Just a month ago, state police officers and the National Guard were in Nuevo Casas Grandes after the town’s police chief, Julio Cesar Ramirez Valdez, and his police escort were attacked by men wielding automatic weapons outside a gym.
The attack left three municipal police officers – Maria Montserrat Muro, 41, Juan Lagunas, 51, and Pedro Perez, 43 – dead along with a civilian bystander, cross-fit trainer Larisa Beltran Estrada, 30.
Nuevo Casas Grandes is 80 miles southeast of Antelope Wells, New Mexico and about 140 miles south-southeast of Douglas, Arizona. The city is known as a regional agricultural center, but it’s also near a busy drug corridor into the United States.
Mexican police have not established the motive for either fatal shooting.