A confrontation between Mexican law enforcement and Gulf Cartel members in Matamoros on Friday night ended with four deaths and as many arrests. One civilian died as a result of the incident, and a sought-after cartel leader was killed.
The situation started around 9 p.m. when military personnel and state police on patrol spotted and attempted to stop suspicious vehicles, according to information from the State Coordination Group for the Construction of Peace in Tamaulipas.
Instead, the drivers opened fire on law enforcement as they fled.
Around that time, Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco Cabeza de Vaca ordered a heightened police presence to protect the public when the violence started, he said over social media.
Law enforcement gave chase through several city streets as cartel members released ponchallantas, spikes to deflate tires, and blocked off 15 different areas including access to highways connecting Matamoros with Nuevo Progreso and Valle Hermoso.
Large and passenger vehicles were used to create blockades. Three vehicles were set on fire to prevent the arrival of reinforcements from the security forces.
Pending forensic confirmation, authorities believe a 32-year-old cartel leader known as “El Tigre,” also known under three legal names, Ariel Treviño Peña, Javier Enrique Hernández Gutiérrez, and Francisco Hernández Martínez, was killed in the confrontation.
El Tigre was a suspected chief of halcones, or lookouts, leader of the Escorpiones operation of the Gulf Cartel, and plaza boss in Nuevo Progreso. He was considered a priority target for the justice system in Tamaulipas and sought after by seven U.S. agencies, according to information from the State Coordination Group for the Construction of Peace in Tamaulipas.
The civilian who died was killed by a stray bullet. She was identified Saturday morning as Sonia Grimaldo Velazco, a retired employee with the city of Victoria, Tamaulipas. Grimaldo Velazco served as the president of the Honor and Justice Commission for the Union of Workers at the service of the Municipality of Victoria Tamaulipas, according to a social media post by the organization.
Some of the aggressors fled on foot and disappeared into public places downtown. Two civilians were injured in the attacks and have since been released from the hospital.
Four other people were detained and will be taken before the federal ministerial authority. An armored vehicle, four long weapons, including one that used 50 caliber ammunition, and some magazines used by the cartel were also seized.