Little clarity has followed the brazen assassination of a local police chief in northern Mexico, as officials investigate who may have ordered the high-profile killing and why.
A team of armed civilians shot and killed Deputy Municipal Police Chief Juan Miguel Silva Alvarado as he patrolled the Tres Ríos district in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacán late on August 6, according to statements from Carlos Alberto Hernández Leyva, deputy director of public security in the state.
Also known by the nickname “Boxer,” Silva Alvarado had been appointed to the post just hours prior to the attack. It’s unclear how the commando intercepted the three-car patrol, but they reportedly disarmed the other officers patrolling with Silva Alvarado. Hernández Leyva described the killing as a “direct attack” on the top cop, as he was the only one to be shot at.
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Following the murder, authorities located several of the stolen service weapons, as well as two other firearms they believe the gunmen used to carry out the crime, Sinaloa’s Secretary of Public Security Cristóbal Castañeda told the local press.
The killing of Silva Alvarado marked at least the third police officer to be killed in Sinaloa so far this year, according to data compiled by Causa en Común, a civil society organization that monitors police killings. The group recorded eight officers murdered there in 2021.
InSight Crime Analysis
For now, it’s not clear who orchestrated the killing of Silva Alvarado or what the motive was for carrying out such a brutal assassination.
On the surface, two things may point to the Sinaloa Cartel.
First, the geography of the attack. Culiacán has long been the bastion of the Sinaloa Cartel. Despite current infighting, a faction of the group known as the Chapitos that is run by several sons of the now-imprisoned Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” is believed to wield tremendous influence across the capital city.
Second, the style of the attack. The fact that the armed commando involved was able to intercept a three-car patrol in a well-populated district of the state capital, identify their target and disarm the other officers, murder the police chief, and flee without being caught suggests a high-level of professionalism.
That said, this isn’t their usual modus operandi and it’s not clear why the group would want to target Silva Alvarado on their home turf. In recent months, authorities have cracked down on synthetic drug production across the state, which the Sinaloa Cartel is heavily involved in. Through July 20 of this year, government data showed almost 90 percent of the 246 clandestine labs destroyed were located in Sinaloa. But these operations are largely carried out by the Mexican Army, not local police.
Still, Silva Alvarado is not the only high-ranking police official to be targeted recently in Sinaloa. In May 2021, an armed group ambushed and murdered State Police Chief Joel Ernesto Soto as he drove on the highway connecting Culiacán and Los Mochis. Just weeks earlier, he survived an armed attack in Mazatlán.