MEXICO CITY — A top drug gang enforcer says he ordered the killing of a U.S. consulate worker because she helped provide visas to a rival gang in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, federal police said Friday.
Jesus Ernesto Chavez, whose arrest was announced on Friday, leads a band of hit men for a street gang tied to the Juarez cartel, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of anti-narcotics for the Federal Police.
Pequeno said Chavez ordered the March 13 attack that killed U.S. consulate employee Lesley Enriquez and her husband as they drove through the violent city toward a border crossing to the U.S. Pequeno said Chavez told police that Enriquez was targeted because she helped provide visas to a rival gang.
The suggestion that drug gangs may have infiltrated the U.S. diplomatic mission runs counter to previous statements by U.S. Embassy officials that Enriquez was never in a position to provide visas and worked in a section that provides basic services to U.S. citizens in Mexico.
And U.S. officials who looked into the possibility of corruption involving Enriquez shortly after her killing found no evidence that she was involved in illegal activity at the consulate, said a federal official in the U.S. who is familiar with the investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.
He said the motive behind the attacks remains unclear to U.S. officials.
“The ’why’ has not been answered” in the killing of Enriquez, her husband and the husband of a co-worker, the official said.
The attack on Enriquez — within view of the Texas border — and a nearly simultaneous attack that killed the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate raised concerns that U.S. government personnel were being caught up in drug-related violence.
Enriquez was four months pregnant when she and husband Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed by gunmen who opened fire on their vehicle after the couple left a children’s birthday party. Their 7-month-old daughter was found wailing in the back seat.
Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate, also was killed by gunmen after leaving the same event in a separate vehicle.
Chavez told police that gunmen opened fire on Salcido because the two cars were the same colour and the hit men did not know which one Enriquez was in, Pequeno said.
Investigators also have looked at whether Redelfs may have been targeted because of his work at an El Paso County Jail that holds several members of the Barrio Azteca, believed to be responsible in the attacks.
In March, U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement officers swept through El Paso, picking up suspected members of the gang in an effort to find new leads in the killings.
Officials also have speculated that both attacks could have been a case of mistaken identity.