Texas mayor wasn't target of drive-by in Mexico

AP News
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Posted: Dec 23, 2009 6:18 PM

A Texas border mayor said Wednesday he doesn't think he or the Mexican officials he was with Tuesday were the targets of a drive-by shooting that killed a woman in front of a popular restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico.

Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster said he was in the smoking section at the back of the Charcoal Grill with the outgoing mayor of Piedras Negras, Coahuila state Attorney General Jesus Torres and other Mexican officials Tuesday afternoon when Torres' security officers told them all to get on the floor.

Patrons from the front of the restaurant were herded into the kitchen. Within minutes they were given the all clear.

"Nobody ever came into the restaurant," Foster said. "We never heard a shot."

The public officials had just come from a swearing-in ceremony for the new mayor who will take office in Piedras Negras in January, Foster said.

Outside, they found a couple dozen police officers and learned a woman had been shot in front of the restaurant in a drive-by, Foster said.

The Coahuila state attorney general's office released a statement Wednesday identifying the victim as 40-year-old Sonia Elizabeth Sanchez Muzquiz of Piedras Negras and calling the shooting a "cowardly murder."

Sanchez had just left the restaurant with others when she was shot, the statement said. She was taken to a hospital, where she died hours later.

Sanchez was the daughter-in-law of incoming city council member Rafael Guillermo Garcia Leos, who was dining at the restaurant with his family, separate from the other officials, city spokesman Alejandro Osorno said.

Witnesses reported a Piedras Negras municipal police vehicle was passing when the shots rang out, the state attorney general's statement said. Tests were run on 23 local police officers who were on duty and the 11 vehicles they were using to see if any of them had fired a weapon. All the tests came back negative, the statement said.

The Charcoal Grill sits on a busy avenue across the street from a Holiday Inn. There's a landmark restaurant by the same name in Eagle Pass.

"I never felt threatened," said Foster, who visits Eagle Pass' sister city across the Rio Grande daily. "Nobody's after me."

As head of the Texas Border Coalition, a group of political and business leaders from the Texas border region, Foster has been an outspoken opponent of the border fence.

Foster said he would attend another swearing in ceremony in a nearby Mexican municipality Saturday.

Piedras Negras has seen increasing drug gang violence. In April, gunmen killed its new police chief, a retired army officer sent in to clean up the department.