EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The 2010 killing of an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and two others may have been a fatal case of mistaken identity, according to witnesses who testified Wednesday in the trial of an alleged gang member.
Former Barrio Azteca gang member Jesus "Camello" Chavez testified that his gang duties included monitoring radio communication between gang leaders and that he heard them say the shooting of Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband and the husband of another employee was "a mistake."
Chavez testified in El Paso in the trial of Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, who is accused of ordering the March 13, 2010, shootings in Juarez of Catton and her husband, Arthur Redfels. Also killed was Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, husband of another consulate employee.
FBI agent Carlos Hernandez testified that Gallegos Castrellon told him the people killed "were not intended targets."
Chavez testified earlier this week that about 10 days before the March 13, 2010, shooting, Gallegos Castrellon had ordered him to be on the look-out for a white Honda Pilot SUV believed to have people affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel.
At the time, the Juarez Cartel was embroiled in a war with the Sinaloa Cartel that was trying to overtake the area to gain access to one of the main drug-trafficking routes into the U.S. In 2008, the Barrio Azteca had formed an alliance with La Linea gang, the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel. Barrio Azteca members had told La Linea leaders that a suspicious white Honda Pilot with tinted windows had been spotted in an area controlled by them.
Hernandez said Gallegos Castrellon told him that the leader of La Linea, Jose Antonio "El Diego" Acosta Hernandez, gave him the order to locate that car and kill its occupants.
Salcido Ceniceros was driving a white Honda Pilot when he was shot. Moments before the attack, Salcido and the Redfels had left the birthday party of the child of another consulate employee. The Redfels were driving a white Toyota SUV and, according to prosecutors, radio communications show Gallegos ordered them killed as well because they were with the people in the Honda Pilot.
Over the past two days, Chavez told the jury of his rise from a Barrio Azteca prospected member to being the right-hand man of Gallegos Castrellon, one of the leaders of the organization in Ciudad Juarez. On his way to the top, Chavez told the jury he had to kill so many people he stopped counting at 800. To please his boss, he beheaded several people and chopped enemies to pieces. The idea was "that it would be big news," he said.
Gallegos Castrellon's lawyer, Randolph Ortega, questioned the veracity of Chavez's testimony and tried to portray him as self-serving man that would say anything the U.S. government wants to have his 11 life sentences reduced. "Camello always does what's most beneficial for Camello, isn't that right?" Ortega asked Chavez several times during cross examination.
Ortega also said that Gallegos Castrellon's statements to Hernandez were made after his client was arrested and taken to Mexico City by Mexican authorities. He raised the question of whether Gallegos Castrellon was forced by Mexican policemen to tell the FBI what he said during the interview with Hernandez and other agents.