JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Guadalupe and her family were already in bed when she heard 80 to 90 loud pops a few feet from her front door in the early hours of Sunday.
“I got up to make sure all the doors and windows were closed. It was very scary,” said the resident of Riberas del Bravo neighborhood in southeast Juarez.
Outside, at the entrance of a large walled-off property, stood a red Chevrolet Silverado riddled with bullets and oozing blood. Inside the vehicle was the body of a 25-year-old man and three critically wounded girls ages 4, 13 and 14. The girls died a short time later at a Juarez hospital.
The killings have shocked the neighborhood, whose residents say they have stopped going outside their homes after sundown. “We don’t feel safe. We go out in fear over what is happening here. This is not the first time something bad happens. We fear for our children,” said Guadalupe, who asked that her last name not be used.
And the aftermath of the murders threatens to unleash a new wave of violence on a city that has already seen nearly 1,000 murders this year, most of them drug-related.
Chihuahua state authorities on Monday told Mexican news media that a drug gang known as the “Mexicles” is suspected of being behind the murders of Rafael Gordillo and his daughters Lindsay, Sherline and Arleth.
Deputy Attorney General Jorge Nava said five men in two pickups arrived at the entrance of the property to kidnap a man attending a party inside. More than 100 bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle, an AR-15 and three handguns were fired at the scene. A Juarez municipal police vehicle briefly pursued the fleeing assailants, before being shot at and crashing, Nava said.
Both Nava in Juarez and Attorney General Arturo Peniche in Chihuahua City identified the assailants as members of the “Mexicles” and said they remain at large.
However, early Tuesday, alleged members of the drug and migrant-trafficking gang denied being behind the murder of the girls and accused Chihuahua officials of being on the payroll of other drug gangs. And, in signs hung from two Juarez overpasses and in a communique posted the web pages of various news organizations, the “Mexicles” warned they’re ready to go to war if persecuted.
“We, the ‘Mexicles,’ completely distance ourselves from the cowardly attack on Riberas … where three innocent girls died,” states the communique. “The Attorney General’s Office wants us to appear responsible for this cowardly attack to … protect criminal members of Valle de Juarez (cartel), who are the real culprits of the murders of these three innocent girls.”
The communique, signed by “El 40” (Number 40), the leader of the Mexicles, further states that the group has the guns, the men and the money to go to war with the police and urges the Attorney General to “decide if you want a new war or arrest those who are truly responsible for this cruel attack and stop blamin us.”
Members of the “Mexicles” have been arrested in recent weeks on migrant-trafficking charges and others are suspected of being behind a rash of murders and mutilations in a rural suburb east of Juarez.
‘You have no business here’
The funeral for Lindsay, Sherline and Arleth Sanchez Gordillo took place Tuesday morning at the family residence on Morelos Street in the neighborhood of El Sauzal, also in southeast Juarez. Folding chairs were placed under a tent for dozens of family members and friends who came to say their final goodbyes to the girls.
Family members refused to speak to reporters and twice demanded that they pull back farther away form the home. “You have no business here,” one elderly woman said. Earlier, at the private school at least one of the girls attended, a source said the teachers were saddened by the murders but would not be speaking to reporters.
“Of course we knew the girls. This is horrible,” said a neighbor along Morelos Street, who declined to give her name. “We feel very bad for the family. Nobody should have to go through something so bad.”
The girls were scheduled to be buried later Tuesday afternoon.
In an earlier interview with Border Report, Nava said that 90 percent of Juarez’s murders are drug-related. He said drug sales have shot up in the city since U.S. authorities cracked down on border enforcement after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Though drugs continued to be smuggled north into the United States, much of the product — marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine — stays in Juarez and is consumed by drug addicts he said. Nava estimates the number of drug addicts in Juarez to be in excess of 120,000.