Three high-ranking Mexican police officers were arrested on allegations of buying weapons and ammunition at a gun show in Phoenix in violation of a law barring noncitizens from purchasing firearms, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The three had crossed the border at Calexico, Calif., in an official police vehicle and driven to Phoenix, said Tom Mangan, a spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Police and federal agents arrested them after the three bought three guns and about 450 rounds of ammunition Saturday at the gun show, Mangan said.
It appeared the officers were buying the handguns for their personal use, he said.
Booked on state weapons misconduct and conspiracy were Carlos Alberto Flores, 36, a Baja California state police director; Baja State Police Commander Guillermo Valle Medina, 33; and Jose Santos Cortes Gonzalez, 41, a federal police commander in Baja California.
Flores and Cortes posted $2,000 bond each and were released from jail, and Valle was released on personal recognizance, Mangan said.
A woman who answered the telephone in Flores’ office in La Paz said Flores was still in charge but not in the office or available for comment. Alejandra Borquez, a spokeswoman for the Mexican state’s Office of Public Safety, said she had not heard of the arrests.
Official finds irony in situation
Local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents monitoring the gun show overheard Gonzalez negotiating with a dealer for two guns, then watched as he bought them, according to a police report. Gonzalez and Flores met up with Valle and continued buying ammunition and gun supplies before leaving, the report states.
Police stopped their vehicle after they left the gun show, according to the report.
Mangan said Mexican officials have been pressuring U.S. officials to cut off the supply of weapons going south.
“It is ironic we are receiving a great deal of criticism regarding our efforts to stem the tide of illegal weapons, and then we have three law enforcement officers trying to buy weapons here,” Mangan said.
Licensed dealers in Arizona must check identification documents and run background checks, but private sellers operate without those rules.
The guns were bought from a private seller, Mangan said.