A federal agent was killed and an alleged cartel leader captured Tuesday after a shootout erupted as authorities conducted an investigation in a neighborhood in the Mexican city of San Luis Potosí.
The lethal confrontation broke out around midday when gunmen opened fire on members of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, who were looking into cartel activity in the Nueva Progreso neighborhood, according to state authorities. The agents returned fire, killing one attacker.
“It was a carefully planned ambush intended to kill as many officials as possible,” said Miguel Sanchez, a spokesman for the federal attorney general’s office.
One Agent was Killed, and Another Injured
One federal agent died in the attack, and another was seriously wounded, officials confirmed. The slain agent was identified as a commander who had been with the office for more than 15 years.
“He was a highly respected and experienced member of our team,” Sanchez said. “His death is a tragic loss in our fight to rid San Luis Potosí of dangerous cartels.”
The shootout erupted near the intersection of Aristóteles and Frágot streets. As bullets flew, members of a criminal group tried to flee through surrounding streets but were pursued by dozens of police and soldiers, authorities said.
Notorious Cartel Leader Captured
The massive law enforcement response led to the capture of five suspects who had taken refuge in a nearby house, police said.
The most notable figure detained was a man nicknamed “El Nicho,” described by authorities as the leader of a breakaway faction of the deadly Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación.
State police commissioner Juan Miguel said El Nicho’s cell had terrorized San Luis Potosí for weeks.
“His capture deals a strong blow to the cartel’s ability to threaten violence and traffic drugs in this community,” Miguel said.
Nearby School Caught in Crossfire
The outbreak of violence occurred around midday near a preschool, terrifying children and teachers inside. Amateur video showed students hunkering under desks as teachers tried to calm rising panic.
“The sound of repeated gunfire was overwhelming for these young kids,” said Ana Martinez, whose 5-year-old daughter attends the school. “She still shakes when she talks about it.”
By Tuesday evening, police tape cordoned off several blocks around the shooting scene as forensics experts analyzed blood stains on the street and collected bullet casings and other evidence.
Sanchez said authorities believe Tuesday’s violence was linked to a longer-running conflict with El Nicho’s cartel. Police recovered multiple guns and ammunition from the gang’s hideout, he said.
“This group has been challenging law enforcement for months,” Sanchez said. “We will continue rooting out all violent actors until residents no longer fear letting their children walk to school.”
The shootout was an ugly reminder of Mexico’s ongoing struggles to quell cartel violence that claims thousands of lives every year. Total homicides have climbed steadily since 2015, reaching more than 30,000 in 2020, according to federal data.