Feb 18, 2017
A kingpin's killing puts the complexity and brutality of Mexico's drug war on vivid display
Business Insider, Christopher Woody. Feb. 14, 2017
On the evening of February 9, a Mexican navy helicopter hovering over the city of Tepic in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit laced a home in the city with a six-second stream of machine-gun fire.
Mexican officials said the gunfire came because gunmen had opened fire on marines with "high-caliber" weapons in the area and then barricaded themselves in the upper level of a house.
One official told the Associated Press that the Black Hawk helicopter had been called in for "dissuasive fire," meant to suppress fire from the house.
"To reduce the level of aggression and lower the risk of death among civilians and federal forces, (troops) repelled the attack with the support of dissuasive fire from a helicopter," a statement from the Mexican navy said.
Mexican marines were engaged in the initial exchange but were then joined by federal police and the army.
The first encounter led to the death of Juan Francisco Patron Sanchez, aka "H2," reportedly the leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization in Nayarit and the southern part of neighboring Jalisco state, and seven other suspects. A "second aggression" later near the city's airport ended with four more suspects dead.
The governor of Nayarit praised the operation as "surgical" and called it "proof that Nayarit is ... at peace." No Mexican personnel were killed.
While Mexican authorities have used the kind of "minigun" mounted on the helicopter in the past over rural areas, it's rare to see it used over urban areas.
The Mexican navy said it was deployed in line with rules of engagement. (There were reports early last year of Mexican military helicopters firing on homes during the search for "El Chapo" Guzmán.)
Mexican authorities also recovered a grenade launcher and several rifles and pistols at the scene.
The exchange underscores the complexity and brutality that has come to characterize engagements between Mexican security forces and suspected criminals in Mexico, particularly the northwestern part of the country.
The Mexican government has acquired several Black Hawk helicopters from the US government through the Plan Merida initiative. Despite their sophistication, Black Hawks, like other helicopters, are not immune from cartel firepower.
In May 2015, members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel shot down a helicopter over Jalisco state, killing eight people on board. In September, suspected members of the Knights Templar cartel downed a state-government helicopter over the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacan, reportedly using a Barrett .50-caliber rifle.