Juárez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola survives assassination attempt

By Marisela Ortega Lozano / El Paso Times
Posted: 06/23/2011 02:21:24 PM MDT

Juárez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola survived an assassination attempt Thursday morning in downtown Juarez, an official said.

Two men shot at his motorcade and his bodyguards returned fire, wounding one of the assailants, officials said. The other suspect fled the scene.

No police officers were harmed in the attack, officers said.

The incident took place Thursday morning in the La Chaveña neighborhood near downtown Juárez when Leyzaola was riding with his bodyguards, the official said.

Officers arrested Roberto López Valles, 24, in connection with the ambush. They also seized a gun and a charger.

Leyzaola, a retired Mexican Army lieutenant colonel, was sworn in as Juarez police chief in March. In his role, Leyzaola has taken on the huge challenge of fighting crime in one of Mexico's most violent cities.

In a interview with the El Paso Times earlier this month, Leyzaola talked about Los Zetas, a criminal organization in México labeled as one of the bloodiest groups.

"I don't know why Los Zetas are so feared," Leyzaola said during the interview, held in Juarez. "In the end they're just criminals. They're not different from the rest just because they call themselves Zetas.

"Am I supposed to tremble when the Zetas are mentioned or what? I think it is them who should tremble when they talk about the authorities," Leyzaola said.

Forty Juárez police officers have been killed since Juárez Mayor Héctor Murgu*a took office on Oct. 10, 2010. Fourteen Juárez police officers have been ambushed this year, according to the Juárez Department of Public Safety.

Since January 2008, more than 8,000 people had been killed in Juárez.

Marisela Ortega Lozano may be reached at mortega@elpasotimes.com; 542-6077.

Reporter Alejandro Mart*nez-Cabrera contributed to this story.