Latin America

The shocking killing of Guadalupe’s last police officer

Small Mexican municipality near the US border left lawless after lone cop is murdered

A forensic team examines the crime scene in Guadalupe on Tuesday.
A forensic team examines the crime scene in Guadalupe on Tuesday.STRINGER/MEXICO (REUTERS)

There is now no one left to uphold the law in Guadalupe, a small municipality near the US border in Mexico’s Chihuahua state.

The only police officer who bravely remained on the force was gunned down Tuesday morning, along with his 14-year-old son, on a lonely street in the city.

Joaquín Hernández Aldaba had received a phone call about an accident that had supposedly taken place in a deserted neighborhood. The bodies of the father and his son were later found inside the police vehicle in the area, surrounded by 23 bullet casings.

Hernández Aldaba had received a phone call about an accident that had supposedly taken place 

The killings came as a huge blow for the people of Guadalupe, who five years ago also lost their “last standing sheriff,” Erika Gándara, when she was taken away at gunpoint by drug traffickers two days before Christmas.

Her home was set on fire and two months later her body was found in a sewage ditch. She was 28.

Gándara made international headlines when she decided to stay on as the only police officer on the force after her colleagues abandoned their jobs fearing for their safety.

Unlike Gándara, who patrolled the streets with a pistol in her hand, Hernández Aldaba made his rounds unarmed.

A hero or a crazy man, he decided to take charge of the town’s law enforcement duties three weeks ago

Call him a hero or a crazy man, he decided three weeks ago to take charge of the town’s law enforcement duties after the municipal police chief was kidnapped in broad daylight at a local baseball game.

The kidnappers tied the police chief’s ankles and covered his head with a plastic bag. Later, when investigators found his body, they discovered that he had been tortured before he was murdered.

Soon after, three other officers decided to leave the force, and Hernández Aldaba was left on his own.

Now that he is gone, Guadalupe Mayor Gabriel Urteaga Núñez, who works as a veterinarian, officially dissolved the local police force and asked the Chihuahua state police, along with the Mexican army, to take over law enforcement duties.

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“They don’t want any type of law enforcement here; that is their message. Fine, we will get rid of the force. But if the authorities really want to help us, please do so,” the mayor said in an appeal.

Urteaga Núñez is part of a long line of town officials who have been threatened by the local drug cartels.

Five years ago, one of his predecessors, Jesús Manuel Lara Rodríguez, decided to stand up to the cartels. But after his life was threatened, the then-mayor decided to seek refuge at a safehouse in the nearby violent border city of Ciudad Juárez.

On June 19, 2010, three hitmen gunned him down along with his wife and son at their secret hiding place.

Guadalupe, which is located about 60 kilometers from Ciudad Juárez, is a dangerous town. The cotton fields from a once-booming local industry are now abandoned.

Guadalupe has become profitable for drug cartels because of its proximity to the United States

But the municipality has become profitable for the drug cartels because of its proximity to the United States. The Sinaloa cartel and La Línea – the armed branch of the Juárez cartel – have been engaged in a brutal and bloody war over control of the territory.

Numbering 18,500 in 2008, the residents of Guadalupe have fled: there are only about 2,500 still living in the municipality.

Drug hitmen have dragged local residents from their homes, sometimes setting them on fire in front of their neighbors. Many residents have left in fear.

“We live in uncertainty,” said the town’s mayor.

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