Three arrested in cartel informant killing

August 11, 2009 4:45:13 AM PDT
Three men were arrested Monday night in the shooting death of a U.S. drug informant in front of his home this spring, authorities said. Police did not release the identities of the men, details of their arrest or the exact charges they face in the May 15 death of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, a Juarez drug cartel lieutenant who was working for U.S. officials as a confidential informant. It is believed to be the first killing of a ranking cartel member on American soil.

Gonzalez, a 37-year-old legal immigrant, was gunned down in front of his home on a quiet cul-de-sac in an expensive neighborhood. Neighbors say they didn't hear a car on the street or any argument before the shooting.

Police first publicly identified Gonzalez as a cartel official nearly three weeks after his death.

Last month, two federal law enforcement officials and a local official confirmed to The Associated Press that Gonzalez had been telling U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement officials about cartel activities before his death. One of those officials said federal authorities were monitoring Gonzalez's activities and whereabouts.

El Paso police Chief Greg Allen, who lives behind Gonzalez and heard the shots from his backyard, told the AP that no local authorities were told about Gonzalez's role in the cartel or his work with ICE until after his killing.

In a statement to the AP, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said the agency does not "discuss nor comment on issues regarding confidential informants."

Powerful Mexican drug cartels have set up organizations in more than 230 U.S. cities and cartel-affiliated hit men have delivered violent, sometimes deadly discipline against low-level, American-based drug dealers. But police and experts who study Mexico's drug war have suggested that Gonzalez is the first ranking cartel member to be killed inside the U.S.

Police previously have said the killing may have been payback for Gonzalez's cooperation with ICE. He was shot eight times at close range. At least three of the bullets may have passed through him, striking a nearby parked car and the stucco of a neighboring house.

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