Ex-Cops Allegedly Assassinated Texas Cartel Attorney in Broad Daylight
Federal agents arrest Mexican ex-cops crossing the U.S. border
On a Wednesday evening in May last year, 43-year-old attorney Juan Guerrero-Chapa and his wife parked their Range Rover inside an upscale shopping district in Southlake, Texas. After some shoe shopping—and as the couple returned to their car—a trio of assassins pulled up in an SUV behind them, blocking traffic.
The attorney sat down in the front passenger seat, his wife sitting behind the wheel. One of the assassins then jumped out with a nine-millimeter pistol and shot Guerrero-Chapa to death.
The crime was shocking not only for its brazenness. Southlake, a wealthy Fort Worth suburb, usually records zero homicides in a given year. The victim in the shooting also once represented ex-Gulf Cartel leader Osiel “El Loco” Cardenas, who is currently in a U.S. federal prison.
Now we know who allegedly carried out the hit—and two of them are ex-cops. On Sept. 5, federal agents arrested 58-year-old Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda and his son, 30-year-old Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano, at a checkpoint when the pair attempted to enter the U.S. from Mexico.
Federal agents also raided the Edinburg, Texas home of the elder’s cousin, 58-year-old Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes, and arrested him.
According to several Mexican newspapers and Dallas news station KXAS-TV, both the father and son are former police officers from San Pedro—a suburb of Monterrey, Mexico. A year before the murder, Mexican newspaper Reporte Indigo claimed Ledezma-Cepeda “ran an intelligence operation which included eavesdropping on telephone calls.”
According to an FBI indictment that a federal court in Fort Worth released on Sept. 9, the group carried out a meticulously planned, highly organized assassination. The team plotted for months, the indictment alleges, and used tracking devices and multiple safe houses to close in on Guerrero-Chapa before ambushing and killing him.
The tracking devices turned out to be the assassins’ biggest mistake. The group apparently forgot to remove one device attached the family’s Range Rover. Once the FBI discovered it, they traced it to a rental company with “six total devices associated with the same account.”
That allowed the investigators to retrace the group’s movements—which included staying at rental properties in Florida and Texas. The killers also used as many as five vehicles, either bought used or rented, and frequently swapped between them.
They emailed “personal information of the victim’s family, photographs of the victim’s residence, vehicles associated with the victim’s family and the victim’s personal information,” the indictment states.
Even more disturbing, the group set up a game camera—used for tracking animals—in the family’s neighborhood. Parts of the heavily-redacted indictment appear to reference cell phones, which investigators later used to triangulate and retrace the killers’ movements.
The combination of the murder, possible perpetrators and the victim was enough for police to suspect the killing was a rare—and especially high-profile—cartel hit inside American borders. Even stranger were reports Gurrerro-Chapa worked as an informant for HSI, the Department of Homeland Security bureau responsible for investigating drug smuggling.
The Gulf Cartel also isn’t something to mess around with. It’s waged a violent conflict in northern Mexico for years against both the Mexican government and the rival Sinaloa Federation. Some of the worst violence in Mexico in recent years results from a war with the Zetas, a group of ex-military enforcers who split from the Gulf Cartel.
Many Gulf-affiliated gangsters settled in Texas to avoid reprisals after the Zetas laid siege to the Gulf-controlled border towns of Matamoros and Reynosa. While more than a million people live and work in the two cities, the war has led to thousands of deaths and a drastic decline in cross-border tourism that’s only recently begun to rebound.
The FBI doesn’t say explicitly whether the murder was carried out by a drug cartel—the Gulf Cartel or one of its rivals. But it has all the hallmarks of organized crime. The cartels also target current and former police due to their connections, training and experience in both how to evade police and how to track down targets.
But this group wasn’t good enough at the former to hide forever.