Rocky Point police chief critically wounded in ambush
Bodyguard also shot by gunman
by Dennis Wagner - Jun. 21, 2010 01:22 PM
The Arizona Republic
The police chief of Rocky Point was critically shot and his bodyguard also wounded during a Saturday night ambush by gunmen on a major street in the Mexican resort town, according to municipal officials.
Chief Erick Landagaray Macias was flown to an Hermosillo hospital after the attack and remained in critical but stable condition as of Monday morning, said Fausto Soto, director of international relations for the town known in Sonora as Puerto Peņasco.
Luis Huerta Ibarra, the bodyguard, reportedly suffered less serious wounds and is expected to make a full recovery.
No arrests have been reported, and no motive has been divulged, although attacks on law enforcement in Mexico are typically linked to narcotics organizations.
Rocky Point, on the Gulf of California about 65 miles south of the border at Lukeville, is a haven for Arizonans, many of whom own or rent beachfront houses and condominiums.
A municipal news release issued by Mayor Alejandro Zepeda Munro's office condemned the assassination attempt and assured residents and visitors that "all levels of government are committed to working together in this investigation."
The two men were attacked while driving about 10:55 p.m. Saturday in front of a bakery warehouse on Rio Suchiate Boulevard, an area removed from most hotels and restaurants. Rocky Point News Online, a Mexican news outlet, published a photograph showing the victims' white pickup truck riddled with bullet holes. The report said Landagaray suffered a half-dozen gunshot wounds.
An attorney in his mid-30s, Landagaray became chief about six months ago after Zepeda was seated as mayor. In May, he told ABC News that corruption within the municipal police force had diminished under the new administration. In other reports that month, he criticized a State Department notice warning Americans about possible fake police roadblocks on Highway 8, the main road to Rocky Point from Arizona.
Rosie Glover, publisher of Rockypoint News Online, said she had gotten to know Landagaray since he assumed the town's top law enforcement job, and sometimes translated for him during meetings with Americans.
"I'm praying for his speedy recovery," she added.
Glover said tourism in Rocky Point, which was devastated by economic recession and fears of drug violence during the past year, had begun to recover in recent months. Now, she said, police convoys cruise the town and business owners fear another downturn.
The municipal news release includes this advisory: "Visitors should know that increased military and police on the streets of the city are to be expected as part of the standard operating procedure when something like this happens."
At least two other shooting incidents on Friday also had links to Rocky Point. According to Mexican news outlets, three Puerto Peņasco residents were murdered Friday in Sonoyta, the Sonoran town just south of Lukeville, while parked at a service station.
That same day, two vehicles sped out of Rocky Point in a chase along Highway 8 and wound up in a gunbattle north of town. Police arrived to find a bullet-riddled vehicle, but it was unclear whether anyone was killed or wounded.
Oscar Palacio, president of the Puerto Peņasco Convention and Visitors Bureau, said local, state and federal authorities will meet Tuesday to ensure that Highway 8 remains secure between the U.S. border and Rocky Point.