BISBEE — Shootings rocked citizens and authorities of Agua Prieta in Mexico, Cochise County and Naco on Monday as word of ten people killed in a cartel shooting was posted on social media.
Sheriff Mark Dannels said he was up in a helicopter with a visiting sheriff helping the Border Patrol in Douglas when he received a call from Chief Deputy Thad Smith. Dannels was told of the shootings south of the border. He said he did not see any emergency vehicles near the port of entry from the helicopter.
“The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has been advised of significant violence occurring in Mexico in the towns of Agua Prieta, Naco and Nogales,” said a post on the sheriff department’s Facebook page.
“The fighting is reportedly being waged between two cartel factions and the death toll has been unofficially reported at 10 as of this time. Your local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies will remain vigilant in monitoring border security and additional information will be released as it becomes available.”
As of Wednesday, after speaking with law enforcement officials in Naco and Agua Prieta, the Herald/Review was told the total number of dead included eight men and one woman. In Naco, a woman and a 12-year-old child were also injured in the crossfire and taken to University Medical Center in Tucson.
In the first incident, Naco, Sonora Police Chief Julian Bojorquez said he heard gunshots at around 5 p.m. Monday. By the time officers arrived, they found four people dead in bullet-ridden vehicles and the woman and the child with bullet wounds.
Bojorquez said the Cananea General Police of the Republic, which oversees the Naco Police Department, was handling the investigation and beefed up security for the town to prevent any further bloodshed.
“They have taken positions around the town to keep it secure,” he added.
He was unable to provide any details as to who the shooters or the deceased might be or if a feud between cartels was to blame. He did say the bodies were found with no identification and one of the vehicles had an Arizona license plate.
Mauricio Larios, a dentist with an office close to the port of entry in Agua Prieta, said the shooting did not take place near the border, but was actually more than 40 blocks away.
Still, it left him and his staff a little rattled and they abided by a voluntary curfew of 8 p.m. People were requested to stay off the streets and businesses were asked to close. “We were asked to take precautions.”
Lt. Colonel Marcus Vinicius Ornelas Quesada, Agua Prieta’s comisario general, said there wasn’t an official curfew issued, but reports on social media called for one and some residents decided to follow it.
In the second incident, he confirmed there was a fight between two different groups, but would not call them cartels or name them. The shooting there took the lives of four men and one woman in two different vehicles. One was a Chevy Malibu with an Arizona license plate and the other a Chevy Silverado with a Sonoran plate.
It’s been six or seven years since we’ve seen anything like this,” Ornelas Quesada said. “We are taking precautions and have assistance from the government to have more people on the streets around the city. There are more than 200 people across the city in banks, schools, to make sure everybody is safe. We don’t expect any more trouble.”
He compared it to the violence in American cities where shootings occur regularly and people still visit the sights and enjoy the metropolitan areas.
Ornelas Quesada and Borquez say their cities are safe and visitors are welcome to come and enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes found south of the border.
Herald/Review sales representative Marithza Diaz acted as an interpreter for this report.