Three members of the Gulf Cartel including one of its leaders were killed during a shootout with the army and state police in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on Friday night, authorities said.
A bystander was also killed during the confrontation and two police officers were wounded. Tamaulipas authorities said that the security forces detained four members of the Gulf Cartel and seized an armored vehicle and weapons.
Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca said Saturday that the identity of one of the deceased persons had been confirmed as Ariel Treviño, a leader of the Scorpions faction of the cartel.
Tamaulipas authorities said in a statement that Treviño, also known as “El Tigre” (The Tiger), was a plaza chief in Nuevo Progreso, a border town 50 kilometers northwest of Matamoros. He was a priority target for law enforcement authorities in Tamaulipas and the United States, they said.
Friday’s gun battle began after soldiers and state police came across “several suspicious vehicles” while patrolling the streets of Matamoros, authorities said. The security forces ordered the vehicles to stop but their occupants ignored the instruction and fled while shooting at the soldiers and police.
A chase and gunfight ensued during which the cartel members used spike strips and hijacked vehicles to set up 15 roadblocks, some on highways that connect Matamoros to Nuevo Progreso and Valle Hermoso. Three vehicles were set on fire, authorities said, adding that several aggressors fled on foot and were lost in crowds as they entered public places, including shopping centers, in the center of Matamoros.
A woman was struck by a stray bullet and died from her injuries on her way to hospital. The victim was identified as Sonia Grimaldo Velazco, an official with a trade union in the municipality of Victoria.
The rolling clash between the cartel members and security forces passed a circus where families ducked for cover as they heard gunfire. Numerous other citizens, including shoppers and restaurant patrons, were caught up in the confrontation but apart from Grimaldo’s death, there were no reports of injuries or fatalities. In video footage that circulated online, one witness described the situation as “war” while speaking to his family over the phone. Gunshots rung out as he spoke.
Governor García – who the federal government is seeking to prosecute for ties to organized crime – said in a Twitter post that his government will use all the resources available to combat criminal groups that operate in Tamaulipas, a state notorious for cartel violence. “There will be no truce,” he declared.