Mexico’s acting federal police chief was shot dead early on Thursday outside his home — a brazen attack as drug traffickers increasingly lash back at a nationwide crackdown on organized crime.
Edgar Millan Gomez was shot 10 times after opening the door to his Mexico City apartment complex, where at least one gunman was waiting for him before dawn, the Public Safety Department said. Two bodyguards were also wounded. Millan died hours later at a hospital.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s government said Millan had played a vital role in the country’s fight against organized crime and denounced “this cowardly killing of an exemplary official.”
Millan, 41, was named acting chief of the federal police on March 1 after his superior was promoted to a deputy Cabinet position, said a police official who was not authorized to give his name.
Police were investigating and had not yet determined a motive for the pre-dawn attack, the official said. One suspect with a record of car theft was arrested.
US Ambassador Tony Garza sent his condolences to Millan’s family.
“Mexico has lost another hero,” Garza said in a statement on Thursday. “Another death, which brings outrage to all who admire and respect the thousands of selfless officials who dedicate their lives to the betterment of their country.”
Garza urged US lawmakers to approve the Merida Initiative, a US$500 million proposal that would help fight drug crime in Mexico. He called the package “critical” to “our joint fight against these criminals.”
Mexico has suffered a wave of organized crime and drug-related violence, in which more than 2,500 people died last year alone.
Since taking office in 2006, Calderon has sent more than 24,000 soldiers to drug hotspots. Millan was in charge of coordinating operations between the federal police and those troops.
Cartels have responded fiercely to the nationwide offensive, killing soldiers and federal police in unprecedented attacks. Until recently, most of those killings took place in northern Mexico, where drug gangs rule large areas. Now, criminals appear to be getting more brash with slayings in the capital.
George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, said Millan’s death “shows the increasing audacity of the cartels.”
“This happened in Mexico City where people like Millan tend to be quite cautious, often sleeping in different houses on different nights, and who have their own security patrols,” he said. “When you can get someone like this, no one is safe.”
Millan was the second top Mexican police official killed in less than a week in Mexico City, following the May 2 killing of a federal police intelligence analyst in an apparent armed robbery attempt outside his home.
In January, police in Mexico City arrested three men with assault rifles and grenade launchers who were allegedly planning to assassinate Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a top prosecutor who oversees the extradition of drug traffickers.
Millan had been involved in solving a number of high-profile kidnappings.
In 2000, he helped to capture one of Mexico’s most feared kidnappers, Andres Caletri, and to disband two notorious abduction rings. In 2001, he was named head of anti-kidnapping operations for the Federal Agency of Investigation, Mexico’s version of the FBI.
Under his direction, agents captured five suspects involved in the abduction of Ruben Omar Romano, the coach of Mexico’s Cruz Azul soccer team in 2005.