15 Killed in Mexican Car Wash Massacre

Police officers secure the area where 15 men were shot to death by unknown gunmen at a car wash in Tepic, Mexico, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. This was the third massacre in Mexico in less than a week.
AP Photo/El Meridiano
Gunmen killed 15 people at a car wash Wednesday in a Mexican Pacific coast state where drug-gang violence has risen this year. It was the third massacre in Mexico in less than a week.

The gunmen in three vehicles drove up to the car wash in the city of Tepic and opened fire without provocation, said Fernando Carvajal, public safety secretary of Nayarit state, where the city is located. Fifteen men were killed and three people were injured.

The motive was not immediately clear but investigators suspect it was the work of organized crime, Carvajal told reporters.

He said most of the victims were recovering drug addicts and worked at the car wash. One victim, however, had just driven up to the business in a motorcycle and appeared not to have worked there, and another body was found at a nearby fruit stand.

Carvajal said the owners of the business have another car wash in the city where a man was killed Tuesday, and police were investigating whether the attacks were linked.

Nayarit Gov. Ney Gonzalez told Radio Formula that investigators believe some of the victims had been washing a stolen car.

President Felipe Calderon, speaking at a forum on security, called for a minute of silence for the victims of the Tepic attack and two other massacres that have occurred since Friday: an attack on a birthday party that killed 14 young people in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, and a shooting at a drug rehab center in Tijuana that killed 13 recovering addicts.

The three attacks did not appear to be related. Such mass shootings have become increasingly common in Mexico, where drug-gang violence has surged in recent years.

Cartel-style violence has picked up this year in Nayarit, a small Pacific coast state wedged along drug trafficking route disputed by several drug gangs.

In April, 12 bodies, eight of them partially burned, were found in the fields outside the Nayarit town of Xalisco. Gonzalez, the governor, ordered schools to close early in June because of rising violence.

Drug gangs were blamed in the first two massacres.

In Tijuana, prosecutors say they are investigating whether the attack there was related to a record seizure of nearly 135 tons of marijuana last week. Shortly after the attack, a voice was heard over a police radio frequency threatening that there would be as many as 135 killings in Tijuana - a possible reference to the government's pot haul.

In Ciudad Juarez, investigators said two men found dead Tuesday

one of them decapitated - might have been involved in the birthday party massacre Friday night. A note left with the bodies accused the men of killing women and children. The victims of the party attack ranged from 13 to 32 years old and included six women and girls.

In other bloodshed in Ciudad Juarez, gunmen killed three undercover Mexican federal police officers as they waited for a person to cross a bridge from El Paso, Texas, authorities said Wednesday.

The Chihuahua state attorney general's office gave no further details of Tuesday's shooting, but motorists crossing the Cordova Americas International Bridge at about 1:30 p.m. were told by officials that there was a delay because of a shooting.

In an unrelated attack, a Chihuahua state police officer was killed Wednesday in his Ciudad Juarez home, said Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

A territorial battle between the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels has torn Ciudad Juarez for nearly three years, claiming more than 6,500 lives, many of them police. The city of 1.3 million is one of the world's deadliest.

Federal police have come under increased attacks in Ciudad Juarez since taking over security in the city from the military earlier this year.

At least 115 police officers or investigators have been killed in Ciudad Juarez this year - including 32 federal police.

The bodies of some federal officers have been found with signs accusing Calderon's government of protecting the Sinaloa cartel. The government vehemently denies the charge, noting that many suspected members of all Mexican drug gangs have been arrested.

In the northwest city of Culiacan, meanwhile, gunmen burst into a Red Cross hospital and kidnapped a young man who had been shot, said Martin Gastelum, a spokesman for the Sinaloa state attorney general's office.

The 23-year-old man had just been brought in with a gunshot wound when the armed men burst in, opened fire and hauled him out, Gastelum said.

Gastelum said he did not have further information but did not believe any Red Cross workers were hurt.

And in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, the bodies of three men and a woman were found dumped on a street, shot to death with their hands and legs bound, according to a police report. A threatening message was left by the bodies, but the report did not reveal its content.