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3 teens charged in cartel slaying

An 18-year-old U.S. soldier is accused of being the triggerman in the death of an informant. The victim is believed to be the first ranking Mexican drug cartel member to be killed in the U.S.

August 13, 2009|Associated Press

EL PASO — Three teenagers, including a U.S. soldier, have been charged with capital murder for their roles in the contract killing of a Mexican drug cartel lieutenant who was cooperating with U.S. authorities, police said Wednesday.

Army Pfc. Michael Jackson Apodaca, 18, and Christopher Duran, 17, were arrested Monday. A 16-year-old boy, whom police did not identify because of his age, was arrested Wednesday.

Investigators said Apodaca, an El Paso native who joined the Army last year, admitted taking money from a mid-level cartel official to be the triggerman.

Duran, police said, told investigators he was paid to be the getaway driver after Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana was shot eight times in front of his home in east El Paso on May 15.

Police said the 16-year-old was paid to provide surveillance of Gonzalez -- who is believed to be the first ranking cartel member to be killed in the U.S. -- on the night he was killed.

Ruben Rodriguez Dorado, a 30-year-old mid-level cartel official and informant for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hired the teens and orchestrated the killing, police said. He also is in custody facing murder charges.

A warrant has been issued for a fifth person, cartel lieutenant Jesus Aguayo Salas, who is also charged with capital murder.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said Aguayo ordered and paid for the killing. Gonzalez, 37, was targeted after he vanished from Mexico after the arrest of another cartel leader and a raid on a cartel warehouse in Mexico.

Allen said the killing was prompted by suspicions that Gonzalez was either an informant or had trade alliances amid the Juarez cartel's violent battle with rival drug gangs for control of Ciudad Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Allen said Tuesday that Gonzalez was in fact an informant working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and was living legally in the U.S. on an ICE-issued visa when he was killed.

Gonzalez, whom police said knew he was wanted by the cartel, had previously managed some of the drug gang's smuggling operations.

Rodriguez, Apodaca and Duran remained jailed on $1-million bail each on the murder charges.

The 16-year-old was being held by juvenile authorities. Police spokesman Chris Mears said prosecutors would decide later if he would be charged as an adult.

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