On Christmas Eve, Fidel Alejandro Villegas, the police chief of a northwestern Chihuahua town, was placed under federal custody in connection with the murder of nine American citizens on Nov. 4 and is suspected of having ties to organized crime.
At least nine dual U.S.-Mexican citizens, including six children and three women, were shot to death on Monday, Nov. 4, near Rancho La Mora on the border between Sonora and Chihuahua—a shooting attack that relatives suspect might have been a case of mistaken identity by drug cartel gunmen.
According to Milenio, a major Mexico City news portal, Villegas is being questioned in connection with the drug trafficking groups that operate in the region.
Both the Sinaloa cartel and La Linea, the remnants of the old Juarez cartel operate in the area and were engaged in a series of skirmishes in the days prior to the killing of nine members of the LeBaron clan of northwest Chihuahua.
So far, two brothers, Hector Mario and Luis Manuel Hernandez, also from Janos, have been arrested in connection with the shooting, the federal Attorney General’s Office said earlier. Members of the Hernandez family deny their relatives’ involvement in the killing.
“It is a grave accusation. They are saying he’s involved in drug trafficking, with the massacre of LeBaron,” Sebastian Pineda, the mayor of Janos, on Thursday, Dec. 26, told Mexico City radio news show MVS. Pineda said, “Everyone has been taken by surprise” by Villegas’s arrest.
“They’re going to investigate his bank accounts and his financial history for evidence of bribes and paybacks and where they might have come from,” Emmanuel Gallardo, a Mexican journalist who covers organized crime, told the Daily Beast.
Very few details about Villegas’s arrest and the allegations against him have been made public. But a member of the LeBaron family said he was not surprised a high-level police officer was tied up in the case.
Police in the area are notoriously corrupt, and cartels exercise control over much of the region. Prosecutors have alleged Villegas is connected with La Línea, the enforcement wing of the Juárez Cartel, the Daily Beast reported.
Julián LeBaron told The New York Times it was “common knowledge down here that the police work with the criminals.”
“They have a monopoly on security and they get paid a wage for protection, and later we find out that they participate in the murder of women and children,” he said. “These people take money to protect us and they are murderers themselves.”