JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — The police chief of a northwestern Chihuahua town has been placed under federal custody, and Mexican media are linking his arrest to the murder of nine American citizens on Nov. 4.
Fidel Alejandro Villegas was taken into custody in Juarez on Christmas Eve by federal police and flown to Mexico City shortly after, the Mayor of Janos told Mexican media on Thursday. Villegas is the police chief of the town of Janos, some 30 miles southeast of Antelope Wells, New Mexico and 70 miles west of Juarez.
According to Milenio, a major Mexico City news portal, Villegas is being questioned in connection to the drug trafficking groups that operate in the region.
Both the Sinaloa cartel and La Linea, the remnants of the old Juarez cartel operate in the area and were engaged in a series of skirmishes in the days prior to the killing of nine members of the LeBaron clan of northwest Chihuahua. Three adult women and six children were killed when the three vehicles they were driving just west of the Chihuahua-Sonora border were shot at multiple times. A Mexico City police official days later named La Linea as the authors of the massacre.
So far, two brothers, Hector Mario and Luis Manuel Hernandez, also from Janos, have been arrested in connection with the shooting, the federal Attorney General’s Office said earlier. Members of the Hernandez family deny their relatives’ involvement in the killing.
Sebastian Pineda, the mayor of Janos, on Thursday told Mexico City radio news show MVS that “everyone has been taken by surprise” by Villegas’ arrest.
“It is a grave accusation. They are saying he’s involved in drug trafficking, with the massacre of LeBaron,” Pineda told the station, according to a recording of the interview.
Pineda said Villegas has been affiliated with the Janos Police Department since 2010 and been its police chief since 2016. He said Villegas has emphasized training of officers during his tenure.
Villegas was in charge of 27 police officers that patrol a wide swath of farm and ranch land in northwestern Chihuahua state. The Mayor said he hasn’t been officially notified by the Mexican federal government of any charges against his police chief. He told MVS he has no more information on the arrest.