msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/21/2010 8:03:43 PM ET 2010-10-22T00:03:43

A Texas National Guardsman and another man were shot dead in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, according to local officials and reports.

The body of Jose Gil Hernandez Ramirez, 21, of El Paso, was identified by members of his family, Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office, said.

An FBI spokesman confirmed the name and said Ramirez was a member of the Texas National Guard. He said it was thought Ramirez was in Mexico for personal reasons.

A spokesman for the Texas National Guard said Ramirez was on "personal business" in Mexico. He said they would do what they could to help his family and a full military funeral would be provided if they wished.

The deaths of the two men came as drug cartels fought gunbattles with the Mexican army in several parts of the northern border region, including residential areas, on Wednesday.

Parents rushed to take their children out of school to safety while factories forced some workers to stay inside for their own safety and told others not to come to work.

Chihuahua state officials told the El Paso Times newspaper that Ciudad Juarez residents found Ramirez and another man, named as Rafael Ramirez Reza, 42, dead on the street with multiple gunshot wounds.

A third man was wounded and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

  1. Related content
    1. 20-year-old student named police chief in Mexico town
    2. No injuries reported in second west Mexico quake
    3. Mexican authorities seize 105 tons of marijuana
    4. NYT: Mexico watching Calif. marijuana vote

Col. Bill Meehan, a spokesman for the Texas National Guard, on Thursday confirmed Ramirez' death and that he was a member of the guard.

"The Texas National Guard family has lost a friend and fellow soldier who will be missed," Meehan said in a statement, "but more importantly the soldier’s family mourns the loss of a loved one."

'Extreme caution' advised
Meehan said there was a prohibition against National Guardsmen going to Mexico, but this only applied to full-time staff and those on duty.

Jose Gil Hernandez-Ramirez
NBC
Jose Gil Hernandez Ramirez

"But we certainly have advised all our soldiers and airmen to use extreme caution when going into Mexico," Meehan told msnbc.com.

Ramirez was a part-time soldier who attended school during the week and reported for duty with his unit monthly and for annual training, Meehan said.

He said they would do what they could to help the family of the dead man.

"We have been at war here since 2003 and unfortunately we are familiar with the concept of death," Meehan said. "This person is a soldier, so we will do a full military funeral if that's the family's wishes. And then we will learn from this."

Special Agent Michael Martinez, a spokesman for the FBI, confirmed Ramirez had been killed and said the case was being investigated by the FBI in collaboration with local officials.

"He was there, from what I've been able to ascertain, just on a personal visit. He was not in uniform," Martinez told msnbc.com.

He said he did not know whether Ramirez had been deliberately targeted or caught in crossfire, saying the investigation was still in the "preliminary stages."

In Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, Mexican troops and drug gang members engaged in shootouts, while in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, assailants threw a grenade at an army barracks.

  1. Most popular

Witnesses in Nuevo Laredo said gunmen forced people from their cars to use the vehicles in the blockades.

At least four shootouts took place in the city, including one behind a Walmart store near a residential area, according to witnesses and reporters at the scene.

Bullet casings from assault rifles littered the area, and at least one house and two cars had bullet holes.

Apolinar Rodriguez, a resident of the neighborhood, said he thought he heard grenade blasts.

"They are fighting with everything they have," he said.

Parents rushed to schools to pick up their children and factory managers at one industrial park closed their gates, ordering their workers not to leave and canceling night shifts.

"We were not allowed to leave for two-and-a-half hours," said Eva Lara, a worker at one factory.

The local governments of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa warned residents to stay inside through a series of Twitter and Facebook messages, and the U.S. Consulate officials said American citizens should do likewise.

Shootouts also erupted in Reynosa, across from McAllen, causing a huge traffic jam in the highway connecting the city with Monterrey and Matamoros.

By the evening, the Nuevo Laredo government said in a Twitter message that the "situation of risk" had ended, and most of the vehicles blocking the roads had been removed.

Violence has soared this year in northeastern Mexico amid a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs.

Cartel gunmen frequently use stolen cars and buses to form roadblocks during battles with soldiers.

    1. Castaway's parents thought they would never see him again

      The father of Pacific castaway Jose Salvador Alvarenga said he was told his long-lost son vanished on a fishing trip but he didn’t have the heart to break the news to his ailing wife.

    2. Scotland legalizes same-sex marriage
    3. Weapons deal strengthened Assad: US intel chief
    4. Outcry over the fate of Sochi's stray dogs
    5. Olympic construction leaves Sochi residents in the cold

Mexico's northeastern border with Texas has become one of the most violent fronts in an increasingly bloody drug war.

Shootouts in the middle of cities erupted frequently, and in the most horrifying attack, 72 migrants were massacred near Matamoros in August, apparently because they refused to work for the Zetas.

Several mayors and the leading gubernatorial candidate for Tamaulipas state — where Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros are located — have been assassinated.

Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug gang violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers to battle the cartels in their strongholds in northern Mexico and along the Pacific coast.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Woman, 20, is Mexico’s newest police chief

  1. Closed captioning of: Woman, 20, is Mexico’s newest police chief

    >>> south of the border no one else wanted, the police chief of a mexican border town where drug wars are raging. you'd never guess who just stepped up to accept the position. here's nbc's mark potter .

    >> reporter: a twenty-year-old college student and mother might be the bravest woman in mexico these days or as some worry the moos fool hardy. in a violent region overrun by drug traffickers she has agreed to become the police chief of a tiny town . in a news conference, she said, i accepted because i like the project. i want to cooperate. i want to live with my people, my family, my community. but the town mayor sitting by her side said it was a job no one else wanted. it is just down the road from wjuarez juarez, mexico from el paso texas and considered the most dangerous city in the world because of all the murders there. 280 last year alone.

    >> most people by now have witnessed a killing and execution, body found in alley or ditch or street. i think they're traumatized.

    >> reporter: other villages nearby have become ghost towns , residents pushed out by traffickers. this woman says she is too young and inexperienced to be police chief but she says she won't be intimidated and wants her son to grow up in a safe town. she also says she won't fight drug trafficking , leaving that to other authorities and instead, will consecrated on crime prevention in a region where crime is out of control. for today, mark

Photos: Mexico Under Siege

loading photos...
  1. A tattooed man stands on a hill overlooking Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, on Dec. 20, 2008. Cartels have launched a wave of violence against the government of President Felipe Calderon since it began a crackdown on organized crime in 2006. According to the attorney general’s office there were 5,370 drug-related homicides in the year to Dec. 2, 2008. That is double the 2007 number. Juarez alone saw an estimated 1,600 such slayings. And the deaths can be horrific – victims have been tortured, beheaded or dissolved in acid. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Inside the car where Marisela Granados de Molinar was killed on Dec. 3 alongside her boss, Jesus Martin Huerta Hiedra, a deputy prosecutor in the Mexican city of Juarez. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Federal police search cars at an impromptu checkpoint near the U.S. border on Nov. 10, 2008. In the late 1980s the United States stemmed the flow of cocaine from South America through the traditional trade routes in the Caribbean. Looking for alternate ways into the U.S., South American cartels began to run drugs through Central America and Mexico, and now the vast majority of illegal drugs flow through this corridor. Facing the recent slew of deaths and corruption scandals among all levels of the police, the government has deployed 45,000 soldiers to fight the cartels as well. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Missing person signs litter the walls of local police stations in Juarez. Kidnapping is integral to the drug-running business and the general lawlessness accompanying it. Before the latest surge in drug violence, Juarez was infamous for another gruesome string of crimes – the kidnapping and murder of young women. There have been 508 such incidents since 1993, according to the state government. When the bodies do show up, many have been raped and mutilated. Many believe that most of these deaths are related to gang initiation rituals. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. El Diario newspaper's Armando Rodriquez was murdered outside his home while warming up his car on Nov. 13, 2008. The 40-year-old crime reporter was killed in front of his 8-year-old daughter who he was about to drive to school. Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since 2000, 25 have been killed there. In addition, seven journalists have disappeared since 2005. Many reporters refuse to put their bylines on stories, and many newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The body of El Diario's Rodriquez -- killed in his car outside his house while his family watched in November 2008 -- is taken away in a body bag by an ambulance. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A U.S. official stands beside a recently discovered cache of drugs on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border crossing. In December, the United States delivered $197 million to Mexico, the first stage of a $400-million package to buy high-tech surveillance aircraft, airport inspection equipment, and case-tracking software to help police share intelligence. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Men and boys shoot heroin in a "picadero," or shooting gallery, in Ciudad Juarez on the banks of the Rio Grande, just across from the United States. Thousands of picaderos, some serving as many as 100 customers a day, are said to exist in Juarez alone. Drug use and addiction among Mexicans has exploded recently, with the number of known addicts almost doubling to 307,000 in six years. Most experts assume these numbers dramatically undercount the problem. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Patrons and workers mingle at Hollywood strip club in downtown Juarez. With American sex tourism on the decline due to the dramatic increase in murder and violence, the few remaining strip clubs have become common hangouts for narcotics traffickers, or ‘narcos.’ (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A man walks in front of 24-hour funeral parlor. The death industry is booming in Juarez where an estimated 1,600 people were murdered in 2008. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Neighbors and family of slain Alberto Rodriquez, 28, watch and cry as the authorities descend on the crime scene. Rodriguez was killed in his car outside his house while his family watched. (Shaul Schwarz) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A bus carrying women and children drives by the site where David Rodriguez Gardea, 42, and Antonio Bustillos Fierro, 38, were gunned down on Nov. 12, 2008. The agents had led an investigation resulting in the arrests of gang members suspected in dozens of murders. The cartels are killing police officers at an unprecedented rate, especially at the border. Gangs have been breaking into police radio frequencies to issue death threats. "You're next, bastard ... We're going to get you," an unidentified drug gang member said over the police radio in the city of Tijuana after naming a policeman, Reuters reported recently. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A U.S. border patrol officer stands behind bullet-scared bullet-proof glass on the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border. Although border agents do not get shot at often they are self-described "sitting ducks." The cartels and drug traffickers send messages of terror through such examples. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The casket of David Miranda Ramirez, 36, is carried by fellow police at his funeral on Nov. 13, 2008. An estimated 50 of Ciudad Juarez’s police officers were killed in 2008 in incidents blamed on drug gangs. Many officers have quit out of fear for their lives, often after their names have appeared on hit lists left in public. While some police have been killed, others are being lured into cooperating with the cartels. Theses gangs have “enormous economic power, and behind that, enormous power to corrupt and intimidate,” says Attorney General Eduardo Medina-Mora. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Family of slain police officer Miranda Ramirez mourn his loss at his funeral. (Shaul Schwarz / Reportage by Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments