Gunman in Southlake slaying was “trained to do this,” police chief says

Posted Thursday, May. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A gunman who was trained to kill swiftly took just seconds Wednesday evening to fire at least nine shots at a Mexican attorney as his wife placed shopping bags in their Range Rover at Southlake Town Square, the city’s police chief said Thursday.

The killing was carried out by “an organization trained to do this activity,” Police Chief Stephen Mylett said.

Mylett declined to confirm reports that the victim, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa, 43, was an attorney for the violent Gulf cartel in Mexico.

The Mexico City-based news magazine Proceso reported Thursday that Guerrero was “executed” in Southlake. The magazine described him as an alleged narcoabogado (lawyer for drug dealers) who is believed to have participated in the “legal defense of members of the Gulf Cartel.”

Guerrero, his wife and three teenage children have lived in Southlake two years, Mylett said. A police officer “will be stationed with his wife until this threat passes,” he said.

The shooting was recorded by surveillance cameras placed throughout Town Square, allowing investigators to establish that Guerrero and his wife parked at 6 p.m. near the gazebo and a Victoria’s Secret shop in the 100 block of Grand Avenue, about a block and a half from City Hall.

After shopping, they returned to the Range Rover. Guerrero sat down in the passenger seat at 6:46 p.m while his wife stowed her packages.

At 6:47 p.m., a slow-moving white sport utility vehicle pulled up behind the Range Rover. The gunman, whose face was partially covered with some kind of cloth, stepped out and walked quickly toward Guerrero, firing several times and hitting Guerrero in the upper body.

The gunman got back into the SUV, which drove away and turned west on Southlake Boulevard (Farm Road 1709).

Guerrero’s wife was not hit.

“An off-duty officer was on the steps of City Hall, and he heard the shots,” Mylett told reporters. “The officer was there in seconds but the [gunmen] already had left.”

Police found nine shell casings. Mylett said the type of weapon had not been determined.

He released photos of the gunmen’s SUV. Investigators had not yet determined the make and model of the vehicle. The Texas plates might have the letters “BHY.”

Guerrero was pronounced dead a short time later at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine.

Mylett said he didn’t believe that the gunmen are still in the area.

“This was done by an organization with a specific target,” he said. “There is no continual threat here.”

Guerrero was in the U.S. legally, but Mylett said he did not know his immigration status.

The attorney had a private business in Mexico and had practiced law in Texas, mostly in McAllen, in South Texas, Mylett said.

Several area and federal agencies have joined the investigation, Mylett said. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed Thursday that their agents are assisting police, but declined to provide additional information. They referred all questions back to Mylett.

No prosecution

The Proceso article said newspaper reports in Mexico “indicate that Guerrero was arrested on charges of drug trafficking in February 2002.” But the article said he was “released by alleged lack of elements to prosecute it.”

The Gulf cartel is known to have recruited the paramilitary group Los Zetas, former Mexican military commandos, to carry out violence. The Zetas have since formed their own cartel. Proceso reported that Guerrero worked for the Gulf cartel when it was run by Osiel Cardenas Guillen, a key recruiter of the Zetas. Guillen pleaded guilty in 2010 to U.S. drug charges and is serving a 25-year sentence in a federal “supermax” prison.

‘Crime is crime’

On Thursday morning, shoppers at Southlake Town Center, a mix of upscale shops and eateries and also home to City Hall, said they were somewhat reassured that police believe the shooting wasn’t random.

Colleen Hendricks, a Southlake resident of 15 years, said she comes to Town Square several times a week.

“Since it appears targeted, I feel more comfortable,” Hendricks said. “If it wasn’t, it would have made a big difference for me.”

Anne Marie Cattane was having a picnic in the courtyard with the 1-year-old boy she cares for.

“It was so close to 7 o’clock, teenagers and families are out here dining, shopping,” she said. “Crime is crime, but you expect it to happen in the middle of the night.”

Southlake had not had a homicide since 1999, and before that since 1994. Both were domestic killings

Staff writers Bill Miller and Susan McFarland contributed to this report.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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Southlake police talk about fatal shooting

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