Image: Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana's home
Alicia Caldwell  /  AP
Bloodstains are visible on the pavement where Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, a Juarez cartel lieutenant, was shot on May 15 in front of his home in El Paso, Texas.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 7/27/2009 7:10:44 PM ET 2009-07-27T23:10:44

The eight bullets that leveled Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana outside his home just doors from the city's police chief were fired at close range and left little doubt about their message.

Gonzalez, a Juarez, Mexico, cartel lieutenant shot on his quiet El Paso cul-de-sac this spring, was working for U.S. officials as a confidential informant, sources told The Associated Press, and experts suspect his slaying may be the first time assassins from one of Mexico's violent drug gangs have killed a ranking cartel member on American soil.

Experts said the murder represents a growing brazenness of the cartels on this side of the border that will most likely lead to more deaths.

"He got shot up close," police chief Greg Allen said. "Whoever did it wanted to make sure it was known that it was for payback."

Mexican drug kingpins, including Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, publicly gave hit men permission this year and last to cross the border in search of targets.

"There's an increasing number of (cartel) leaders living in the U.S., probably either to escape law enforcement or their enemies in Mexico, so that's one of the risks that has increased in the last few years," said Stephen Meiners, a senior tactical analyst for Latin America at Stratfor, a global intelligence company based in Austin, Texas.

"There's a possibility that this thing could get out of hand," he said.

Shannon O'Neil, an expert on Latin America at the Council on Foreign Relations, said she knows of no other high-level killings in the U.S., but fears it won't be the last.

Image: Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana
Sources say Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana was working for U.S. officials as a confidential informant.
"We have started to see more brazenness close to the border on the Mexican side and on the U.S. side," O'Neil said. "Once you get these organizations firmly established in Mexico and the United States, you will have killings at all different levels."

High-level hit?
Gonzalez, a 37-year-old legal immigrant who lived with his family on a cul-de-sac in an expensive neighborhood, was shot May 15 in front of his spacious home. His wife, Adriana Solis, and the couple's two children fled not long after.

Two federal officials and one local official told The Associated Press that Gonzalez was handing over information about cartel activities to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which in recent years has taken a broader role in cross-border drug trafficking investigations. One of those officials said federal investigators were monitoring Gonzalez's activities and whereabouts.

The officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. In a statement e-mailed to the AP, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said, "It is ICE policy to neither discuss nor comment on issues regarding confidential informants."

Cartel-affiliated hit men have violently, and fatally, disciplined low-level, American-based drug dealers in the U.S. But El Paso police said Gonzalez was a lieutenant in the Juarez cartel, which traffics in marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The cartel was once among the most dangerous in Mexico, but has recently lost some standing because of arrests, deaths and infighting.

Seeking cooperation
El Paso police don't yet have an official motive in Gonzalez's slaying, but chief Allen said detectives are working on the assumption that a cartel colleague discovered he was discussing their illegal activities with federal agents.

Allen, who lives behind Gonzalez's house and heard the shots from his backyard, told the AP that he and other local authorities knew Gonzalez had been involved with drugs in the past but had no idea he was both a ranking Mexican gangster and federal informant. He's angry he wasn't briefed about a case his department now must solve as a local homicide.

Cooperation is seen as crucial to the success of the federal and state law enforcement agencies that fill El Paso, one of the country's largest border cities and a major inland port.

The week after the killing, during a tense meeting of a multi-agency group called the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Allen said he told federal authorities that his future cooperation depended on them keeping his department informed of their activities.

"How'd you like it if this happened in your neighborhood?" Allen said he told the gathering.

Missing fingers
The bullets that killed Gonzalez were fired at such close range that three may have traveled through his body and lodged in a neighbor's stucco wall and a parked car. A bloodstain still marked the street where the neighbors sat to watch the kids play. Now, aside from Allen, people living in the Rancho del Sol neighborhood are too scared to speak publicly about Gonzalez or his family.

Aldo Valderrabano lives around the corner from the Gonzalez's second home, a more modest 1,800-square-foot, two-story house they used to live in a little more than a mile away. He said the Gonzalez family moved to the $365,000, 3,300-square-foot home listed in Solis' name, a few months after she mysteriously lost three fingers last year.

Valderrabano's wife visited Solis in the hospital, and he said Solis would only say the fingers were lost "in an accident." She had no other apparent injuries. The family hasn't been seen since the shooting, although El Paso police spokesman Javier Sambrano said investigators are in contact with them. He said Solis and her children are staying at an undisclosed location, "a move they did on their own."

'The New King'
Gonzalez is listed in business records as the only contact for El Nuevo Rey ("The New King" in Spanish) freight company, which shares an address with his home. Federal Express packages for the company continued to arrive daily on Gonzalez's front porch for weeks after the shooting. Business records show the company had annual sales of about $84,000.

He is also listed as the sole contact at that address for Gonzalez Auto Parts, Letters And Colors Day Care and Transportes Gonzalez. Neighbors said they have seen no evidence of any activity related to these kinds of businesses at the house.

Valderrabano said Solis told him the family was from Villa Ahumada, Mexico, a small town south of Ciudad Juarez that has been virtually taken over by cartel fighters in recent months. She said Gonzalez manned a family-owned food stand in Juarez, a city of about 1.1 million that abuts El Paso and is now occupied by the Mexican army in the government's battle against drug gangs.

But while in El Paso, Valderrabano said, Gonzalez and his family were very pleasant. The families' children often played together.

"They were very quiet, we didn't have any problems with them," Valderrabano said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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