EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The Mexican government says a former cop turned drug trafficker was the “intellectual author” behind the massacre of nine Americans in Sonora last year.
Roberto Gonzalez Montes, a.k.a. “32” and “El Mudo” (The Mute), was arrested on Monday in the town of Mata Ortiz near Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico by a federal task force investigating the Nov. 4, 2019 slayings of three women and six children in Sonora. Two other men described as his bodyguards were also detained.
In a news release issued on Wednesday, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office said Gonzalez has two pending arrest warrants and is presumed to be the one who gave the go-ahead to attack a caravan of vehicles driven by women. The attack occurred between the towns of Bavispe and La Mora on a highway used by Mexican drug traffickers to access the U.S. border at Arizona. The area is being disputed by rival groups Sinaloa cartel and La Linea, out of Juarez.
Gonzalez tried to evade arrest on Monday, but police stopped his pickup without firing a shot, the Attorney General’s Office said. He and his companions were taken into custody and police seized four bundles of marijuana, two rifles and three guns from the vehicle, the release said.
The men were taken to Mexico City for further investigation.
Gonzalez allegedly heads La Linea’s Western Chihuahua cell, which is fighting the Gente Nueva proxy of Sinaloa in the mountains and a gang known as Los Salazar closer to the border. It’s members of the latter that La Linea presumably thought were driving the convoy they attacked on Nov. 4.
The murdered Americans were associated with an independent Mormon settlement in LeBaron, Chihuahua. They were part of the LeBaron, Langford and Johnson families.
The dead included adults Rhonita Miller, 30; Dawna Langford, 43; and Christina Marie Langford Johnson, 29. The children were Howard Miller, 12; Trevor Langford, 11; Krystal Miller, 10; Rogan Langford, 2; and 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana Miller.
Notorious drug lord Caro Quintero involved?
And while he publicly praised the Mexican government for the arrest of The Mute, the father of one of the victims raised the possibility that the blame may lie higher up in Mexico’s drug trafficking chain.
Adrian LeBaron on Wednesday told Diario de Chihuahua that a Mexican judge overseeing charges against one of the alleged assassins of his daughter, Rhonita Miller, said reputed Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero may have been involved in the planning of the attack.
Caro Quintero is one of America’s Most Wanted criminals, having served prison time in Mexico for the 1985 killing of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The DEA is still offering a $20 million reward for his capture on charges of kidnapping and murdering a U.S. federal agent. The notorious drug lord reportedly found refuge in the Sinaloa cartel, with Sonora being his beat.
“The judge said that one month before the massacre people from Caborca (Sonora) had gone to Buenaventura, near my town, and a man named Rafael Caro Quintero apparently was there,” LeBaron told El Diario. “It looks like they planned a coordinated attack, some coming from Caborca, others from Chihuahua, to ‘warm up’ the region and keep other cartels from the United States.”
But LeBaron told El Diario he doesn’t know what happened and would like to personally ask “The Mute” that. “We don’t know what happened, we don’t know the truth.”
Global security expert Scott Stewart said it’s difficult to know if the meeting supposedly attended by Caro Quintero really took place. However, the notorious Mexican drug lord has a history of operating in Sonora, specifically in Caborca.
Further, Caro Quintero is said to have had a fall-out with the sons of jailed Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman.
“So it’s possible that he formed some sort of alliance with La Linea to work against Los Salazar […] So it’s plausible, but I have no proof such a meeting took place or that a definitive plan to heat up the area and attack Los Salazar was launched,” said Stewart, vice president of TorchStone Global, a U.S.-based private security firm.