A 43-year-old Mexican citizen gunned down this week at Southlake Town Square had represented members of a powerful drug cartel whose leaders were recently sentenced to U.S. federal prison, according to media reports on both sides of the border.It was not immediately clear whether attorney Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was involved in the two cases.Gulf Cartel leader Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon was sentenced to life in prison May 15 in a federal court in Brownsville for his role in a drug-trafficking conspiracy that involved more than 10 million kilograms of marijuana.The sentence was enhanced because he used “grenades, rocket launchers, homemade cannons and automatic weapons” during the operation, according to a news release.In the District of Columbia on May 13, Aurelio Cano Flores — also a leader in the Gulf Cartel, which operates on the South Texas-Mexico border — was sentenced to 35 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $15 billion in drug proceeds for conspiring to import cocaine and marijuana into the U.S., according to a news release.Guerrero, who was gunned down Wednesday night in Southlake, was not listed in court documents as one of the attorneys for Rincon-Rincon. Documents on the Cano case were not available.The Mexico City-based newsmagazine Proceso, which reported Thursday that Guerrero was “executed,” described him as an alleged narcoabogado (a lawyer for drug dealers) who is believed to have participated in the “legal defense of members of the Gulf Cartel.” The Dallas Morning News reported that Guerrero was the personal attorney to Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, citing a U.S. investigator who spoke on the condition of anonymity.Cardenas is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. on drug-trafficking and other charges.A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Dallas said agents have not confirmed any criminal investigations tied to Guerrero or whether he was indeed an attorney for the cartel.Asked Friday about possible ties to the Rincon-Rincon case, Southlake Police Chief Steve Mylett said that “we are exploring all information, links, and connections to recent and past events to determine the identity and motivation of the murderers. … We are preparing for a very lengthy investigation which will require painstaking patience and persistence. These are not your typical criminals and thus they cover their tracks pretty well.”18 tips called inAuthorities have received 18 tips on the shooting since a news conference Thursday, Mylett said.“As with any investigation of this nature, we have the very slow and arduous task of thoroughly examining evidence, interviewing witnesses and following up on leads,” Mylett said. “We are not going to sacrifice quality for speed.“This is an ongoing investigation and, ultimately, our goal is to track down and arrest the person who pulled the trigger, along with any other individuals involved in this homicide.”The investigation team includes representatives from the FBI, the DEA, the Homeland Security Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.Mylett has said Guerrero’s killing — the first in Southlake since 1999 — was carried out by “an organization trained to do this activity.”The gunman fired at least nine shots at Guerrero as his wife placed shopping bags in the couple’s Range Rover.Counselors at Carroll schoolsThe Guerreros, who have lived in Southlake for about two years, have three children. Mylett said a police officer “will be stationed with his wife until this threat passes.”U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that Guerrero was a Mexican citizen living legally in the United States.A spokeswoman for the Southlake-based Carroll school district declined to say whether the children are enrolled.“Police have chosen not to release any information about the family,” said Julie Thannum, assistant superintendent for board and community relations.The school district has not taken additional security measures, Thannum said.“We have not put anything special in place that night or since. But, obviously, just like everybody in the Metroplex, we are watching it very closely,” she said. “It’s a little bit of a shocker.”Counselors were on standby to work with students who might want to discuss the fatal shooting.‘Deal with the consequences’Rincon-Rincon was a leader of the cartel — known as a lieutenant or plaza boss — who used violence and bribed law officers and news media as part of the operation, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Houston.The 42-year-old from Matamoros, Mexico, was convicted of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and import more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from January 2002 until his arrest in October 2011.During sentencing, U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle told Rincon-Rincon that “you enjoyed the fruits of that lifestyle. Now, it is time for you to deal with the consequences,” the news release states.As plaza boss, Rincon-Rincon was accused of “maintaining control of the region to ensure safe passage of the Gulf Cartel’s narcotics and ensuring no narcotics passed through his area … without his approval or knowledge,” according to the release.Cano, 40, who worked as a police officer in Mexico, was convicted in February of one count of conspiracy to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana, “knowing and intending the substances would be unlawfully imported into the United States,” according to a news release from the Justice Department.“As a leader of the Gulf Cartel, one of the most notorious criminal enterprises in Mexico or the United States, he endangered the lives of innocent people on both sides of the border,” acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said.
Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326 Twitter: @jessamybrown Diane Smith, 817-390-7675 Twitter: @dianestar