Mexican Police Chief Gunned Down by Cartel in Town near Tourist Hub

Marco Vinicio Gálvez Gutiérrez
Photo: Facebook/Lucy Avitia

Cartel gunmen murdered a police Chief from a small town that borders the popular tourist port of San Carlos Bay, in Guaymas Sonora. The attack occurred as he drove his duty vehicle along a local street last week.

A group of cartel gunman pulled alongside the Empalme police chief’s vehicle and fired multiple rifle rounds. The gunmen killed him and wounded his bodyguard, according to El Imparcial. 

Witnesses said the execution of the police chief, identified as Marco Vinicio Gálvez Gutiérrez, occurred at approximately 1 p.m. last Thursday as he headed back to his office after leaving a cultural event at a local high school. The chief traveled with police agent Dominic Zazueta, who was seriously wounded during the attack. Officials transported the agent to a local hospital for evaluation and treatment.

Other media reported witnesses statements that multiple gunmen opened fire from a moving vehicle that pulled alongside the chief. They said a short chase ensued as the gunmen continued to direct fire at the chief and his escort while they attempted to flee. The mortally wounded chief later then crashed into a residence and the gunmen fled. Officials put out a citywide alert and authorities tracked the killer’s path by monitoring surveillance cameras as they fled from the city in a stolen Honda SUV.

Security elements intercepted the cartel gunmen as they were fleeing towards Ciudad Obregón along Federal Highway 15. Authorities arrested four males identified as Mario Alfonso “N”, 35, Manuel Ernesto “N.”, 22, Genaro “N.”, 25, and Aaron Alejandro “N.”, 21. Investigators recovered three 7.62x 39 caliber rifles and one revolver inside the stolen Honda.

Many municipalities and cities in Mexico installed security surveillance cameras in strategic locations. Authorities monitor the cameras from the emergency 911 call-type center. These centers have direct contact with police and military assets patrolling the communities. Police utilized this type of surveillance system to track down the gunmen leading to their apprehension.

The U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo issued a security alert last August prohibiting federal employees from traveling to the popular tourist zones in San Carlos, Guaymas, and Empalme “due to recent violent criminal activity.” Officials expressed concerns at the time regarding a possible cartel war in Guaymas over the presumed murder of three operatives belonging to “Los Salazar” within the Sinaloa Cartel. The operatives were vacationing there when they municipal police arrested them. Someone handed the trio over to a rival criminal group.

Los Salazar reportedly issued an order to retaliate against the Guaymas police for the presumed murder of their operatives. The order and a spike in cartel-related violence triggered the security alert.

In October 2018, cartel gunmen murdered five municipal police officers from Guaymas, Sonora during two separate attacks as reported by Breitbart Texas.

Guaymas/Empalme is approximately 260 miles south of the Mexican border with Arizona and features the San Carlos Bay, a tourist destination especially popular with residents of the nearby American state.

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


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