A team of cartel gunmen stormed a funeral home in the state of Veracruz, gunning down the father and brother-in-law of a male homicide victim who was being mourned by his friends and family. The attack occurred on Wednesday night at approximately 11 pm in Pánuco.
The man being mourned was identified as Óscar Castellanos Sánchez, according to local reports. He was murdered several hours earlier in Tampico, Tamaulipas. Castellanos Sánchez was later transported to Pánuco for funeral services. There, cartel gunmen burst into the crowded Armenta Funeral Home without warning to shoot and kill the father of Castellanos Sánchez. They also killed the brother-in-law of Castellanos Sánchez after chasing him into a bathroom, where he attempted to hide.
Before leaving, the gunmen fired numerous rounds into the casket of the deceased. One reportedly walked up and shot the deceased victim point-blank in the face. The shooters then left in the vehicles they came in, according to witnesses. The father of the deceased was identified as Juan Ramón Castellanos Rivera and the brother-in-law was José Alfredo Pérez Ramírez.
The city of Pánuco has a known presence of warring drug gangs belonging to the Gulf Cartel and a faction of “Old School Zetas or Vieja Escuela Zetas.” The Old School Zetas split from the original Los Zetas who, at one time, acted as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel. The Old School Zetas are locked in a bitter turf war with the Gulf Cartel.
Custody of the crime scene was handed over from the municipal to the ministerial police assigned to the state attorney general’s office. Investigators later reported finding over two dozen shell casings inside the funeral home. Pánuco is valuable due to its drug and human smuggling routes to the U.S. and booming fuel theft opportunities. Veracruz saw approximately 120 homicides in 27 days, according to Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, Governor of Veracruz.
Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.) You can follow him on Twitter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org