A police officer has been burned alive in front of onlookers in Ciudad Juarez, suggesting a new escalation of brutality on the part of criminal groups in the embattled Mexican border city.
A spokesman for the Public Security Ministry confirmed that the body was that of Jose Everardo Sanchez, a member of the municipal police. The 27-year-old had joined the force in August 2010.
Everardo Sanchez was kidnapped on Monday night and taken to an unknown location, according to the spokesman. Witnesses reported that he was taken from a vehicle at around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday in the neighborhood of Paseos del Alba; his hands and feet bound and his head covered in a plastic bag.
There, his attackers doused him in a flammable liquid and set him alight. According to CNN, several witnesses watched helplessly as the officer writhed in agony.
Police discovered a note left at the scene by the perpetrators, but have so far given no indication as to its content.
Ciudad Juarez has often been described as the world’s most dangerous city, with a homicide rate standing at well over 200 per 100,000 for 2010. However, the number of killings has begun to show a decline this year. Some credit has been given to Julian Leyzaola, a hardliner appointed as the city’s police chief in March, though it is likely that the decline is due more to inter-gang power shifts than to improved policing.
The number of police officers killed in Juarez has seen only a modest decrease since Leyzaola took charge of the force. Everardo Sanchez is the 33rd municipal police officer killed in Juarez this year, according to the Chihuahua State Attorney General's Office.