U.S. agents target El Paso gang in effort to solve 3 killings in Juarez

By Christopher Sherman
Friday, March 19, 2010

MCALLEN, TEXAS -- More than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officers swept through El Paso on Thursday, picking up suspected members of the Barrio Azteca gang in a bid to learn who killed three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, last weekend.

"The El Paso law enforcement community has come together today to locate Barrio Azteca members as part of a major intelligence collection effort in an attempt to generate leads into Saturday's Juarez murders," FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said.

Investigators are also seeking information that could help them find Eduardo "Tablas" Ravelo, the leader of the gang's Juarez operations, who was named to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives list last year.

Any gang members with outstanding warrants would be arrested, but the goal of the all-day sweep, dubbed "Operation Knock Down," was intelligence-gathering, Simmons said.

Earlier this week, Mexican authorities said that U.S. intelligence on the Juarez killings pointed toward the Azteca gang's involvement. The group operates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and does work for the Juarez drug cartel.

Consulate employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs, were killed when gunmen opened fire on their sport-utility vehicle after they left a birthday party in Juarez.

Jorge Alberto Salcido, the husband of a Mexican employee at the consulate, was also killed by gunmen after leaving the same event in a separate vehicle.

Enrique Torres, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state police, said Mexican authorities are making significant progress in the investigation.

Investigators are not pursuing a theory reported by Mexican news media that Redelfs's work as a jail guard in El Paso could have put him on the gang's radar, Torres said.

Barrio Azteca started as a Texas prison gang. It was not until the late 1990s that U.S. authorities realized it had a growing presence in Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso. The gang was widely thought to be in disarray in El Paso after an extensive racketeering case; a federal jury convicted six of its leaders and associates in December 2008.

-- Associated Press

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