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Police officer killed as violence flares up on Jalisco’s southern coast

February 13, 2013

A heavy police and military presence descended on the coastal region of southern Jalisco this week, following several shootings, one of which resulted in the death of a municipal police officer.

Luis Antonio Espinoza Gomez was shot dead in downtown Cihuatlan on Sunday night while patrolling the streets on motorbike. He was killed on the corner of Aquiles Serdan and Lazaro Cardenas by four men dressed in black, at least one of whom was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Espinoza died before paramedics could tend to him, while the assailants fled in a white Ford Lobo pickup truck toward the state of Colima. No arrests were made.

Mexican Army units were called in from the garrison in Melaque to back up state and federal police officers patrolling the region in the wake of the attack.

Local media outlet El Noticiero Manzanillo reported another shooting in Cihuatlan which led Manzanillo Mayor Virgilio Mendoza to announce the implementation of “Operation Lockdown” on Tuesday night.

El Noticiero reported that Cihuatlan police officers exchanged fire with suspects traveling in a Blue Honda Civic and a red Toyota Tacoma pickup. The assailants fled in the direction of Manzanillo, with reports indicating that one of the suspects suffered a gunshot wound and their cars were left marked with bullet holes.

Mendoza subsequently announced a joint operation between Manzanillo’s municipal police, the Mexican Navy and the Colima Attorney General’s Office to install checkpoints at the entrances to the port in order to increase security.

The violence spread to Barra de Navidad on Tuesday, with two men shot dead at around 6 p.m. in the Ejidal neighborhood on the corner of Judea and Sebastian Bach. One of the victims, identified as Omar Terrones, was shot at least four times with an AK-47, reported Spanish-language daily Milenio. The other victim has yet to be named.

Wednesday brought more violence in the municipality of Cihuatlan, with soldiers and agents from the Jalisco Attorney General’s Office coming under attack at around 3.30 p.m. while carrying out an anti-drugs operation near the village of Loma Bonita.

The agents repelled the attack, killing two of the gunmen and arresting six, one of whom was wounded in the shootout.

The authorities subsequently discovered a safe house in Loma Bonita and a vehicle parked nearby with grenades inside, recovering in total four AK-47s, a shotgun, a .38 Super pistol, a nine-millimeter pistol and an array of different caliber ammunition.

Rumors began to circulate on Thursday morning that the gunmen were threatening to harm or kidnap local children if the detainees were not released, leading worried parents to evacuate their kids from school. But Cihuatlan Police Chief Jorge Garcia told that this was “false information,” assuring that there had been no reported threats or abductions.

This outbreak of violence understandably caused unease among the local expat population and particularly the businesses that reply upon a constant stream of foreign visitors.

Estate agent Leone Ewoldt told the Reporter that up until now public safety has not been a mayor issue for her clients, as their main concerns have been economic issues.

“It will probably be harder to sell properties because of the shootings, but the story has not made international news yet because no foreigners were involved,” said Ewolt, a 13-year resident of Melaque who originally hails from Seattle.

“Business hasn’t been slow for me this year but I have seen fewer gringos on the street and I’ve heard of vacancies in hotels that are usually full at this time of year,” Ewolt added. She also noted that more properties in the area have been listed for sale since the death of two Canadians last year.

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