Mexican state police director ambushed, shot dead

The attack followed another suspected assassination attempt on Joel Ernesto Soto on May 6, when armed men fired at his state police convoy in Mazatlan [File: Jesus Bustamante/Reuters]
Joel Ernesto Soto

Gunmen ambushed and killed the director of state police in the cartel-plagued Mexican northern state of Sinaloa, local authorities said.

State Public Safety Secretary Cristobal Castaneda said Joel Ernesto Soto was found dead in his bullet-riddled car on a highway on Monday morning, near the state capital, Culiacan.

“In a cowardly attack, this morning, unfortunately, the director of the State Police, Joel Ernesto Soto, lost his life,” Castaneda said in a tweet. “Our condolences go out to the family and the people of Sinaloa who have lost a great man.”

Pictures circulating on social media showed a white vehicle riddled with bullets in a ditch on the side of the highway. A bodyguard who was with Soto was reportedly missing.

Soto was an army lieutenant colonel who was on leave while heading the state police. According to local media, he had joined the Mexican army in 1981.

Local media reported that the attack followed another suspected assassination attempt on Soto on May 6, when armed men fired at his state police convoy in Mazatlan. He was not injured and seven men who were armed with automatic rifles, grenades and vests were arrested in connection with the attack.

Sinaloa is home to the cartel of the same name. The cartel has been riven by internal differences, and is also engaged in turf battles with the Jalisco cartel.

In March, suspected cartel gunmen ambushed a police convoy in central Mexico, eight state police officers and five prosecution investigators were killed. And in 2019, gunmen shot dead 14 police officers in their vehicles in Michoacan.

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