Mexican Police Chief Arrested in Connection with Massacre of American Mormons

Zachary Evans

A police chief in northern Mexico was arrested for an alleged connection with the November massacre of members of Mormon families that hold dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship, the Daily Beast reported on Monday.

Three women and six children from the LeBarón and Langford families were murdered in the Mexican state of Chihuahua by gunmen with suspected ties to drug cartels. The families, who settled in Chihuahua and neighboring Sonora in the 1940’s, belong to a sect of fundamentalist Mormons and speak English among themselves.

Fidel Alejandro Villegas, the police chief of Janos, Chihuahua, was detained on Thursday and is awaiting trial in Mexico City. Prosecutors suspect Villegas of ties to La Línea, the armed enforcement wing of the Juárez Cartel.

“The entire northwest [of Mexico] has a reputation that all police officers work for organized crime,” Julián LeBarón, a spokesperson for the LeBarón family, said in an interview. “And that’s what high school kids tell you. It’s not a mystery.”

While Mexican authorities claim the family members were accidentally killed as part of a turf war between rival cartels, the families have asserted they were deliberately targeted.

Journalist Emmanuel Gallardo told the Daily Beast that ties to drug cartels are endemic to the Mexican state and are a source of constant frustration for Mexican citizens.

“We cannot think of Mexican authorities and organized crime as separate entities. They are part of the same problem, part of the same world,” Gallardo said. “This is why Mexicans are frustrated. Why they are afraid.”

Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna was charged on December 10 with drug trafficking and receiving bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. Luna’s position made him the head of the Mexican police from 2006 to 2012, after which he moved to the United States. Luna received bribes allegedly amounting to millions of dollars in exchange for allowing freedom of movement for the cartel.

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