Tijuana Officers Eyed in Chief Slay

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Tijuana Officers Eyed in Chief Slay

By ARTURO SALINAS, Associated Press Writer

TIJUANA, Mexico--The gangland-style assassination of Tijuana's police chief may have been ordered by two of his officers, Mexican prosecutors said Thursday. Baja California Attorney General Juan Manuel Salazar had said earlier that the six people arrested in the murder of Police Chief Alfredo de la Torre were suspected of carrying out the killing at the behest of a drug trafficker. But he said Thursday that their testimony had led investigators to believe that an assistant police chief and a police officer orchestrated the shooting, then fled to the United States. The six suspects arrested Wednesday include a former city official and a former police officer. According to testimony, the six were to be paid $15,000 by Assistant Police Chief Juan de Dios Montenegro for the hit but never saw the money, Salazar said. U.S. officials are searching for Montenegro and officer Praxedis Osuna Solis. De la Torre was gunned down Feb. 27, causing a public outcry in what may be Mexico's most violent city. Tijuana, a city of 1.2 million, has seen more than 70 murders this year alone -more than one a day.

In a news conference late Wednesday, Salazar said the men admitted working for Vicente Zambada Niebla, whom he identified as the son of drug trafficker Mario Zambada from the northwestern state of Sinaloa. According to the testimony, Osuna and Montenegro were linked to the drug dealers. Details of the connection weren't clear. Salazar said the men had killed 14 other people, including attorney Rodolfo Gallardo, a former state judge who was shot to death along with his wife, son and a local policeman on Feb. 9. Officials believe the traffickers wanted to create confusion that would help them operate without interference, but Salazar said investigators were looking into other motives as well. Zambada apparently has been trying to compete with the Arellano Felix brothers, a notoriously violent drug gang based in Tijuana. De la Torre was shot to death while driving to his office. Investigators said gunmen fired at least 99 bullets at his car, 57 of which hit him. He died instantly. The attorney general said police confiscated several automatic rifles and other weapons from the suspects.

-- cin (cinlooo@aol.com), March 10, 2000

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