Mexican police take Familia Michoacana gang's 'El Toro' by the horns
In a shootout over the weekend, Mexican officials seized Familia commander Hector Russel Rodriguez Baez, alias 'El Toro,' dealing a serious blow to the already reeling criminal group.
The arrest of a commander of the Familia Michoacana is another blow to the sinking criminal group, just days after the Mexican government declared the gang had all but disappeared from its traditional home turf.Skip to next paragraph
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As El Universal reports, Hector Russel Rodriguez Baez, alias "El Toro," was detained following a shootout with Federal Police in Chalco, Mexico State, this weekend. A spokesman with the Public Security Ministry (SSP) said that Mr. Rodriguez Baez was the highest ranking member of the Familia in Chalco, a Mexico City suburb of some 300,000 people.
Government officials said that they had been tracking the cell since July, and had eventually determined the location of the safe house from which it operated. They attacked the building, sparking a confrontation in which Rodriguez Baez and two other alleged Familia members were arrested. Two of their associates were also reportedly killed in the fighting, which involved grenades and automatic weapons.
IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war
Officials said that Rodriguez Baez and his gang ran an extortion racket in Chalco, and that he had participated in the murders of at least 20 targets who refused to pay. They also said that the group controlled the traffic and sale of drugs in the city, and had turned into one of the most violent cells of the Familia operating in Mexico State.
Mexico State has become an increasingly important region for the Familia, in large part because they had been largely sidelined in Michoacan, where the group emerged in 2006 and where it enjoyed virtually complete dominance until 2010. According to a recent report from Excelsior, officials with the SSP and the Mexican military view the Familia as a non-entity in Michoacan, with the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) taking their place as the foremost group in the region, and absorbing their production and trafficking operations.
As InSight Crime has reported, the Caballeros are an offshoot from the Familia headed by Servando Gomez, alias "La Tuta," a former Familia capo who announced the formation of the new group in March 2011. Mr. Gomez’s move was precipitated by the death of the Familia boss Nazario Moreno, alias "El Chayo," in December 2010; Mr. Moreno’s presence was sufficient to keep his lieutenants in line, but once he was out of the picture, Gomez opted to break away.