Authorities insist Americans not targeted
By Amy Isackson and Vicente Calderón
Tijuana, June 2, 2011
Three U.S. citizens have been murdered in Baja California in the last month in three separate incidents. U.S. consular officials in Tijuana have confirmed the victims’ identities and citizenship.
All three victims are male and were shot to death, two just a few hundred yards form the San Ysidro border crossing and the third in a Rosarito neighborhood.
In the first case, 26-year-old Antonio Acevedo was shot and killed on April 30th in Colonia Aztlan, on Rosarito’s northern edge. Acevedo, a San Diego native, was employed by Elite Security in San Diego and often worked as a guard at baseball and football games at Petco Park and Qualcomm stadium.
Acevedo’s family said “Tony” had taken his two children to the movies, in Rosarito, on April 30th, to celebrate El Dia del Niño, or Children’s Day, an annual Mexican holiday. Acevedo was driving from the theater back to his in-law’s home in Colonia Aztlan, at about 11:30 pm., when he was ambushed. Mexican authorities say Acevedo was hit in the thorax and head. His two children escaped unscathed. Acevedo was driving a 2001 gray Dodge Durango with California license plates.
Baja California officials’ investigation is ongoing and has not been make public. Though, Baja California’s Assistant Attorney General in charge of Rosarito told Tijuanapress.com that he is almost certain that Acevedo’s death is a case of mistaken identity, that drug traffickers confused Acevedo with a rival.
Acevedo’s Facebook page says he lived in San Diego, once attended Southwest High School and had worked for Elite Security since May 2008. His profile photograph shows him with two children and a woman at the beach.
An employee at Elite Security would only say that he heard that the investigation into Acevedo’s death is ongoing. The employee said the company’s president, who is the only one who can speak to the press, was out of the country.
The second victim, David Garcia, was shot outside the Pueblo Amigo Hotel at 5:30 p.m. on May 3rd. In a press release, Baja California’s Attorney General’s office, described the victim only as between 30 and 35-years-old, obese, with light brown skin. Authorities said the man had been shot in the chest, arms and stomach and there were 10 9mm bullet casings left at the scene.
Mexican authorities have not publically identified the victim. However, U.S consular officials confirmed his name and that Garcia was a U.S. citizen.
Baja California’s assistant Attorney General for Organized Crime, Fermín Gomez, told Tijuanapress.com that his office is analyzing a video that shows Garcia in the hotel’s casino shortly before he was killed. Pueblo Amigo, a multi-story white building, anchors the shopping center by the same name. It sits at the entrance to the Sentri fast-pass lanes at the San Ysidro border crossing and is owned by Tijuana’s former mayor Jorge Hank Rhon.
Finally, 27-year-old Artemio Gonzalez, Jr. was killed on May 22nd in the parking lot of Bar Dubai, a popular upscale dance club. It is also just a stone’s throw from the San Ysidro border crossing and a few blocks from Pueblo Amigo. Mexican authorities said Gonzalez was shot in the thigh, chest, neck and stomach and that they found 12 bullet casings at the scene.
A law enforcement official, that would not give his name because he is not authorized to talk to the press, said, a few minutes before the shooting, a man accompanying Gonzalez had a verbal exchange with another group of young people in the parking lot. The official said the men in that group beat Gonzalez’s companion’s head with the butt of a gun. Gonzalez tried to intervene but was shot and killed.
The law enforcement official said Gonzalez’s companion, also a U.S. citizen, ran to the San Ysidro border crossing. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, spokeswoman Jackie Wasiluk confirmed that a 25-year-old U.S. citizen arrived at the crossing at 5:00 a.m. on the morning of May 22nd. She said he had a visible head injury and that a CBP agent tended to him and called the paramedics.
Wasiluk said San Diego Police and San Diego Fire and Rescue responded and took the man to a San Diego hospital.
The circumstances and motives in these three cases remain unclear. Nevertheless, it does not appear that the victims’ nationality was a factor in their murders. U.S. and Mexican authorities emphasize that Americans are not targeted in Baja California. For example, nationality was not the motive in the murder of two American citizens waiting to cross the San Ysidro border in early April.