Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fugitive gang leader, ‘El Neto,’ killed in confrontation with law enforcement

Gang leader Ernesto Alberto Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto,” was killed by security forces on Thursday morning, four days after he escaped from the Cereso No. 3 jail in Ciudad Juárez along with 29 other prisoners.

According to a statement by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office (FGE), the regional gang leader of the Mexicles gang died after clashing with tactical units who had tracked him down to a block of houses in the city’s Aztecas neighborhood.

“The capture of Ernesto Piñon was registered after an exchange of gunfire in one of the houses, from where he fled in a vehicle until crashing into a gas station,” the statement read.

“There, he fired at authorities, ending up seriously wounded and later dying when he was transferred to the facilities of the Northern District Prosecutor’s Office.”

Ernesto Alberto Piñon de la Cruz, regional gang leader in Juarez, Mexico
Piñon de la Cruz was serving a 224-year sentence in Cereso No. 3 prison. (Photo: SSPE Chihuahua)

An armored BMW, eight long weapons and five bulletproof vests were also seized in the operation.

Authorities said that the operation was the result of a 48-hour investigation in which several fugitives were located. A few hours earlier, the FGE released a poster with the names and faces of the 30 prisoners who escaped, offering 300,00 to 5 million pesos (US $15,500 to $258,000) to anyone who could provide “truthful, effective, efficient and useful information” leading directly to the fugitives’ capture. 

The Cereso jail break occurred on Sunday morning, after a highly coordinated attack in which gunmen raided the prison in a bid to free “El Neto” and one of his lieutenants. Nineteen people died in the subsequent riot, including 10 guards. Twenty-eight other prisoners seized the opportunity to escape.

In the following days, prison director Alejandro Alvarado Téllez was fired and put under investigation for the security failures leading up to the raid, and 200 additional troops were deployed to the city to assist in the manhunt for the missing convicts.

Cereso No. 3's prison guards at funeral for fallen comrades earlier this week in Juarez, Mexico
Cereso No. 3’s prison guards bid a final farewell to their fallen comrades who died during the raid on Sunday by armed gunmen that allowed 30 prisoners to escape. (Photo: screen capture)

Despite being in jail since 2009, serving a 224-year sentence, “El Neto” was a key leader of the Mexicles gang, a splinter group of the Sinaloa Cartel that is one of the most powerful criminal cells in Ciudad Juárez. In the hours after his death, multiple acts of violence have been reported around the city, including an armed attack on the FGE offices and the setting on fire of two stores.

With reports from Reforma and Aristegui Noticias

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