Mexican Border State Homicide Chief Gunned Down

Sonora state police man a roadblock days after a gunbattle between police and a drug cartel assault force that overran a town last May 16 near the Arizona border that left 23 dead, including five police officers in the town of Cananea, Mexico, Friday May 18, 2007. The nation's top …
AP File Photo/Oman Nevarez

A police commander in the border state of Sonora was assassinated Friday morning by cartel gunmen as he was loading into his unmarked duty vehicle in front of a pharmacy. The murder occurred in Hermosillo.

A group of unknown cartel gunmen pulled alongside the commander’s vehicle as he was getting into the driver’s side and fired multiple shots, killing him, according to El Imparcial. The police commander was later identified as Hugo Zavala, head of the Homicide Unit of the Agencia Ministerial de Investigación Criminal (AMIC) in Hermosillo. The assassination was captured by security footage.

According to witnesses, the execution occurred at approximately 8 am in colonia Heberto Castillo. The video shows a white SUV appear, at least two cartel gunmen open fire, and then speed away. The commander died from his gunshot wounds at the scene, according to local media reports. Investigating agents reportedly recovered at least 30 spent shell casings.

Commander Zavala is at least the seventh police officer killed in Sonora this year. Three were commanders.

In January, cartel gunmen murdered  chief Marco Vinicio Gálvez Gutiérrez from Empalme, which borders the popular tourist port of San Carlos Bay in Guaymas.

In late February, cartel gunmen murdered Said Villa Hernández, a ministerial police agent in Esperanza.

On March 11, cartel gunmen murdered narcotics commander Aarón Guadalupe Arbayo Acuña in Hermosillo and in a separate attack, killed ministerial agent Francisco Asdrúbal, also in Hermosillo.

On April 15, Guaymas municipal police officer Jesús Ernesto López Rojas was gunned down in Guaymas.

On April 23, State Police Commander César Alejandro García Medina was murdered by gunfire.

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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