Killed American family may have been ‘bait’ in Mexican cartel fight: relatives

Killed American family may have been ‘bait’ in Mexican cartel fight: relatives
By Lizbeth Diaz

BAVISPE, Mexico (Reuters) – The nine American women and children killed in northern Mexico were victims of a territorial dispute between an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel and a rival gang, officials said on Wednesday, and may have been used to lure one side into a firefight.

Members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in Mexico decades ago, the three families were ambushed as they drove along a dirt track in Sonora state, leading to U.S. President Donald Trump urging Mexico and the United States to “wage war’ together on the drug cartels.

Accounts emerging of Monday morning’s slayings detailed the heroism of a surviving boy who walked for miles to get help for his siblings, and heavy gun battles in the remote hill area that lasted for hours into the night after the attack.

“We were deliberately targeted, used as bait to lure one cartel against another,” said Lafe Langford, a cousin of some of the victims, who grew up in the same Mormon village.

Hitmen opened fire on the three mothers and 14 children traveling from a village in Sonora to meet with relatives in neighboring Chihuahua state and Phoenix, Arizona.

When the killers struck, the families were spread out along a 12-mile (20 km) stretch of road near the border of the two states, according to Mexican authorities and the families.

As bullets began to pummel the first car, a white Chevrolet Suburban, Christina Marie Langford Johnson stepped out waving her arms to show that they were not gang members, according to a family statement based on reports from the surviving children.

Christina was shot dead. Her baby, Faith, survived the attack in a child seat that her mother appeared to have placed on the floor before she got out.

Gunfire also ripped into a second white Suburban, carrying Dawna Langford and nine children, some two kilometers back, authorities said. Dawna and two sons were killed.

Reuters video of the vehicle showed more than a dozen bullet holes in the roof and sides of the vehicle. Inside, blood was smeared across seats and children’s toys.

A third car, 18 km behind, was shot up and burst into flames, killing Rhonita Miller and her four children.

DRUG CARTEL RIVALRY

Some hours earlier, the La Linea arm of the Chihuahua-based Juarez Cartel sent gunmen to defend the state border area, after attacks in a nearby town by the Los Salazar faction of the rival Sinaloa Cartel, a top Mexican general told reporters.

The Juarez Cartel wanted the Sinaloa Cartel off its turf, General Homero Mendoza said. While no official explanation has been given for the killings, Mendoza and other officials say the gang may have mistaken the families’ SUVs for those of its rival.

The Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels have for years been at odds over lucrative routes in the border region used to move cocaine, heroin and other narcotics into the United States. Mexico has long requested that Washington do more to control demand for drugs. Mexico has unleashed its military against cartels since 2006 but despite the arrests or killings of leading traffickers, the campaign has failed to reduce violence. In fact, it has led to more killings as criminal groups fight among themselves.

Mendoza said the Miller car appeared to have exploded because of the gunfire. More than 200 spent shell casings were left behind.

Relatives of the victims rejected the mistaken identity theory, arguing that shell casings and personal belongings found near the torched car suggest the attackers came close and made sure everybody was dead before igniting the vehicle.

“They shot us up, burned our vehicles to send a smoke signal into the sky,” Langford said, arguing that the gang’s goal was to draw the Sinaloa gunmen into battle.

The families’ account of the attacks and subsequent efforts to recover the surviving children include reports of shooting from the hillsides that continued well after dusk.

A man was arrested in a nearby town in a truck carrying a .50 caliber Barrett rifle and other military-grade weaponry, but the government later said he was not linked to the murders.

The Mexican government countered Trump’s call by urging Washington to help stop the flow of American weapons south of the border, and Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said Remington shell casings of U.S. origin were found at the crime scene.

“That’s one of the most relevant details we can give you,” he told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

HEROIC WALK

When the gunmen shot dead his mother and two brothers, the uninjured 13-year-old Devin Langford hid six surviving siblings nearby and walked for 14 miles (23 km) to find a rescue party.

“After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawna (Langford)’s son Devin hid his six other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help,” the families said in their statement.

For 11 hours, relatives had no idea about what had happened to their loved ones.

The youngest of Devin’s siblings, 9-month old Oliver, was shot in the chest; 8-year-old Cody had bullet wounds to the jaw and the leg, while Xander, 4, had been hit in the back. Brothers Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, lay dead.

When Devin failed to return, his 9-year-old sister Mckenzie, who was grazed in the arm, went after him and walked 10 miles before getting lost in the dark. Search parties later found her, the families said. Another sister, Kylie, was shot in the foot, while sibling Ryder was uninjured.

Nearby were the bodies of the Miller family, including 8-month-old twins Titus and Tiana.

“All shot and burned in their vehicle,” the statement said. “Only ashes and a few bones remain.”

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Canon, New Mexico and Lizbeth Diaz in Bavispe, Mexico; Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, Sharay Angulo, Noe Torres and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Grant McCool)

Under armed escort, mourner convoys reach Mexican village for U.S. family funerals

Under armed escort, mourner convoys reach Mexican village for U.S. family funerals
By Jose Luis Gonzalez

BAVISPE, Mexico (Reuters) – Convoys of vehicles carrying relatives of a group of American women and children slain by unknown gunmen snaked through the dark from as far away as the United States into a remote Mexican region ahead of funerals for the victims to be held on Thursday and Friday.

Members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in Mexico decades ago, the three dual-nationality women and six children were ambushed in Sonora state on Monday, leading to U.S. President Donald Trump urging Mexico and the United States to “wage war’ together on the drug cartels.

Late on Monday, dozens of SUV-style vehicles and pickup trucks escorted by Mexican National Guard outliers rolled into the municipality of Bavispe, where funerals will be held for two of the women and their families on Thursday.

“We came prepared to sleep on the floor, in tents. Whatever is needed to support the families who died in this terrorist act,” said Alex LeBaron, a former Congressman and cousin of one of the women, Rhonita Miller.

The remains of Miller and her children, whose bodies were reduced to ash and bones when the car they were in was shot at and went up in flames, are due to be buried in another village called Colonia LeBaron on Friday.

Alex LeBaron, who was with the convoy, told Mexican radio that mourners had come from the United States and across Mexico, bringing food and mattresses for the journey.

The LeBaron family, which came to Mexico in the early 20th century, now claims to be made up of more than 5,000 members.

Authorities and relatives say the killings appeared to be the work of the Juarez and the Sinaloa Cartels, who fight for control of lucrative drug routes that run through the sparsely populated mountainous areas into the United States.

Mexico has unleashed its military against cartels since 2006 but despite the arrests or killings of leading traffickers, the campaign has failed to reduce violence. Instead, it has led to more killings as criminal groups fight among themselves.

The victims came from prominent local families, including the LeBarons, Millers and Langfords.

Nestled in the fertile valleys of the Sierra Madre mountains just a few hours drive south from the U.S. border, the oldest communities stem from the late 1800s, when upheaval over polygamy in the Utah-based church led to their founding.

The settlements have marriage ties to others in the United States.

(The story is refiled to add Thursday as one date of funerals in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez; Additional reporting by Noe Torres; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Many still missing after deadly attack near Canadian-run mine in Burkina Faso

Many still missing after deadly attack near Canadian-run mine in Burkina Faso
OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Dozens of people were feared still missing on Thursday after an ambush on workers near a Canadian-owned mine in Burkina Faso killed at least 37 and wounded 60 in the worst such attack in the West African nation for years.

Quebec-based gold miner Semafo <SMF.TO> said five of its buses with a military escort came under fire on the road leading to its Boungou mine in the eastern region of Est, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Boungou, on Wednesday.

The assailants’ identity was unclear, but Burkina Faso is struggling to combat surging Islamist violence in the remote eastern and northern scrubland areas. It was unclear exactly how many people were in the convoy, what their nationalities were or how many were missing. But the company has said that under new safety guidelines, Burkinabe employees travel to and from the mine with a military escort by road while international staff are flown by helicopter.

Semafo had tightened security last year following attacks that killed three workers and five security officials.

Two separate sources who have worked at the mine said that the convoy left weekly carrying about 250 local staff usually in five buses of 50 to 60 people each.

Two security sources told Reuters that dozens may still be unaccounted for.

Government and military officials declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Canada’s foreign ministry said there were no reports so far of any of its nationals being affected.

Once a pocket of relative calm in the Sahel region, Burkina has suffered a homegrown insurgency for the past three years, amplified by a spillover of jihadist violence and criminality from its chaotic northern neighbor Mali.

Wednesday’s attack is the worst since jihadist groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda began targeting the landlocked nation with high profile attacks in January 2016.

Then, armed al Qaeda militants killed 32 people in a raid on a popular cafe and hotel in the capital Ouagadougou.

(Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Nine Americans killed in Mexican ambush, Trump urges joint war on drug cartels

Nine Americans killed in Mexican ambush, Trump urges joint war on drug cartels
By Lizbeth Diaz

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Gunmen killed nine women and children in the bloodiest attack on Americans in Mexico for years, prompting U.S. President Donald Trump to offer to help the neighboring country wipe out drug cartels believed to be behind the ambush.

The nine people killed in Monday’s daytime attack at the border of Chihuahua and Sonora states belonged to the Mexican-American LeBaron, Langford, Miller and Johnson families, members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico’s hills and plains decades ago.

A video posted on social media showed the charred and smoking remains of a vehicle riddled with bullet holes that was apparently carrying some of the victims on a dirt road when the attack occurred.

Christina Marie Langford Johnson and her daughter Faith Marie, part of a breakaway Mormon community who were attacked in Mexico, pose in an undated photo released by a family member November 5, 2019. Courtesy of Aaron Staddon via REUTERS

“This is for the record,” says a male voice speaking English in an American accent, off camera, choking with emotion.

“Nita and four of my grandchildren are burnt and shot up,” the man says, apparently referring to Rhonita LeBaron, one of the three women who died in the attack.

Reuters could not independently verify the video.

A relative, Julian LeBaron, called the incident a massacre and said some family members were burned alive.

In a text message to Reuters he wrote that four boys, two girls and three women were killed. Several children who fled the attack were lost for hours in the countryside before being found, he said.

He said it was unclear who carried out the attack.

“We don’t know why, though they had received indirect threats. We don’t know who did it,” he told Reuters.

Five wounded children were airlifted to a hospital in Tucson, Arizona, and a boy in critical condition was transferred to a Phoenix hospital, Lafe Langford, whose aunt and cousin were killed in the attack, said by phone from Louisiana.

Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the nine, traveling in several SUVs, could have been victims of mistaken identity, given the high number of violent confrontations among warring drug gangs in the area.

But the LeBaron extended family has often been in conflict with drug traffickers in Chihuahua and other relatives of the victims said the killers surely knew who they were targeting.

“We’ve been here for more than 50 years. There’s no one who doesn’t know them. Whoever did this was aware. That’s the most terrifying,” Alex LeBaron, a relative, said in one of the villages inhabited by the extended family.

All of the dead were U.S. citizens, he told Reuters, and most also held dual citizenship with Mexico. They were attacked while driving on backroads in a convoy of cars containing the women along with 14 children, he said. Some were headed for Tucson airport to collect relatives.

State prosecutors in Sonora, where the dead were found in three separate locations, said ambushed family members had been planning to travel to the United States via Chihuahua.

The charred bodies of a woman and four children were found in a burnt Chevrolet Tahoe near the village of San Miguelito, while the corpses of a woman and two children were recovered in a white Suburban about 18 kilometers away, the statement said.

The body of the third woman was found about 15 meters (50 feet) from a Suburban near the Sonora-Chihuahua border.

Authorities are investigating whether a man arrested in Agua Prieta, Sonora with guns and ammunition could have been involved in the killings, prosecutors added.

The victims were members of the small community of La Mora, Sonora, set up decades ago by “pioneers” who broke away from the Mormon church, Langford said.

“They were targeted and they were killed on purpose,” said Langford, who grew up in La Mora and has a homestead there.

TIME TO ‘WAGE WAR’ -TRUMP

Trump has praised Lopez Obrador for combating cartel violence but said more needed to be done.

“This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth,” Trump said in a tweet reacting to the massacre.

Later, he and Lopez Obrador spoke by phone, with the U.S. president offering help to ensure the perpetrators face justice.

Prior to the call, Lopez Obrador rejected what he called any foreign government intervention.

Mexico has used its military in a war on drug cartels since 2006. Despite the arrest or killing of leading traffickers, the campaign has not succeeded in reducing drug violence and has led to more killings as criminal groups fight among themselves.

Falko Ernst, senior analyst for the International Crisis Group in Mexico, said Trump’s tweet suggests he may be gearing up to pressure Mexico over security, especially with his campaign under way for re-election in November 2020.

“If he throws in his whole leverage, as we’ve seen with migration, then there is very little the Mexican government can do to hold its ground,” Ernst said.

Northwestern Mexico has been home to small Mormon and Mormon-linked communities of U.S. origin since the late 19th century. The early Mormon settlers in Mexico fled the threat of arrest in the United States for practicing polygamy. The practice is observed by a shrinking number of Mormons in Mexico.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz, Daina Beth Solomon and Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by Dave Graham, David Alire Garcia, Sharay Angulo, Adriana Barrera and Eric Beech; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Howard Goller and Gerry Doyle)

Mexican president defends security plan after police massacre

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended his security strategy on Tuesday and blamed past administrations for chronic violence, a day after at least 13 police were killed in an ambush by suspected cartel gunmen.

Lopez Obrador told a news conference the ambush in the western state of Michoacan was “very regrettable” but reiterated that his commitment to increased spending on security and tackling the root causes of violence would eventually pay dividends.

“I’m optimistic we’ll secure peace … we’re completely dedicated to this issue, but (past governments) allowed it to grow. There’s a new security model now,” Lopez Obrador said, describing the site of the ambush as a “violent area.”

The leftist leader has sharply criticized past efforts that pursued an army-led approach to battling crime.

But after a record number of homicides in Mexico in 2018, they are on track to go even higher this year, putting Lopez Obrador under increasing pressure to stop massacres like Monday’s ambush in the violent western state of Michoacan.

He hopes his welfare schemes, including youth scholarships and apprenticeships, will help draw people away from crime.

Photos of the crime scene published on social media showed bullet-riddled police vehicles set on fire, as well as the bodies of slain officers on the ground.

They also included placards left on vehicles brazenly signed by Jalisco New Generation Cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful gangs, warning police not to support rival outfits.

Federal authorities said 14 police were killed, while Michoacan officials reported that 13 officers died.

Around 80 soldiers and an army helicopter have been dispatched to investigate and find the perpetrators, Gen. Luis Sandoval, the defense minister, told the news conference.

Alongside him, Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the use of force is a legitimate government tool to deal with lawlessness, but should only be considered as a last resort.

“We will pacify the country without using violence, without repression,” Durazo said.

After taking office in December, Lopez Obrador created a militarized National Guard police force to contain the violence.

But many of the National Guard have instead been deployed to police Mexico’s borders to placate U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to impose tariffs if Lopez Obrador does not reduce the flow of U.S.-bound migrants from Central America.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia, Abraham Gonzalez and Diego Ore; Editing by Dave Graham and Alistair Bell)

Top U.S. military officer seeks to address criticism of fatal Niger operation

Top U.S. military officer seeks to address criticism of fatal Niger operation

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer sought on Monday to tamp down criticism the Pentagon had not been forthcoming about the death of four U.S. soldiers in an ambush in Niger, providing a timeline of the incident and acknowledging unanswered questions remained.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the United States Africa Command was conducting an investigation into the Oct. 4 attack. Some lawmakers have criticized the Pentagon for being slow to provide answers.

Dunford acknowledged that a number of issues were still under investigation, including why U.S. forces on the ground waited an hour until they called for support, what type of intelligence was used in the mission and why it took as long as it did to recover a U.S. soldier’s body.

“There has been a lot of speculation about the operation in Niger and there’s a perception that the Department of Defense has not been forthcoming and I thought it would be helpful for me to personally clarify to you what we know today, and to outline what we hope to find out in the ongoing investigation,”

Dunford said in an hour-long news conference.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of condolence messages to the families of the dead soldiers has been criticized by lawmakers in Washington and has raised the profile of the deadly incident.

Dunford said for the first time that U.S. forces on the ground in Niger waited an hour before calling for support.

Within minutes, a U.S. drone located nearby was moved over the firefight and provided intelligence and full-motion video.

French fighter jets arrived above the scene about an hour after that, said Dunford.

“It is important to note that when they didn’t ask for support for that first hour, my judgment would be that that unit thought they could handle the situation without additional support,” Dunford said.

The French fighters did not drop bombs when they arrived, something Dunford said was under investigation.

QUESTIONS FROM LAWMAKERS

Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week he may consider issuing a subpoena because the White House had not been forthcoming with details of the attack.

On Monday, McCain said lawmakers were getting cooperation and information from the Pentagon and expected a “formal hearing” on Thursday about the ambush.

The attack threw a spotlight on the little-known counterterrorism mission in the West African country, which has about 800 U.S. troops, out of a total of 6,000 U.S. troops in Africa. The United States says it is there to support Niger in fighting Islamist extremists.

The Pentagon said at the time that three soldiers had been killed in the ambush. The body of a fourth soldier, Sergeant La David Johnson, was recovered about two days later.

Dunford said that on Oct. 3, a dozen U.S. soldiers accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a reconnaissance mission near the village of Tongo Tongo.

After spending the night near the village, the forces were moving back to their base when they came under attack from about 50 enemy fighters, who appeared to be from a local Islamic State affiliate. The militants attacked with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, Dunford said.

“It was planned as a reconnaissance mission,” Dunford said. “What happened after they began to execute, in other words, did the mission change? That is one of the questions that’s being asked,” he said.

CONSIDERED A LOWER-RISK MISSION

The mission had been seen as a relatively lower-risk endeavor for elite U.S. commandos and there was no armed air cover at the time that could carry out air strikes if necessary.

He added there was no indication the soldiers had taken too many risks.

“I don’t have any indication right now to believe or to know that they did anything other than operate within the orders they were given,” Dunford said.

U.S. forces were conducting normal operations in Niger again and the plan was for them to continue to train and advise local partners. Dunford said there had been no discussions about increasing U.S. troops.

A controversy has swirled for a week over how Trump has handled the task of consoling relatives of slain service members.

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of the Army sergeant killed in Niger, said on Monday that Trump had “made me cry even worse” in a condolence call when he said her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

“We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened, and we owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time,” Dunford said.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by David Alexander, Eric Walsh and Amanda Becker; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Peter Cooney)

Tampa police hunt possible serial killer after three shootings

City of Tampa Police badge

(Reuters) – Police in Florida warned residents of a central Tampa neighborhood not to go out alone after dark as they search for a possible serial killer they believe fatally shot three people in nighttime ambushes over the last two weeks.

At least two of the victims were trying to catch a bus in the Seminole Heights section when they were shot, police said.

Benjamin Mitchell, 22, was alone at the bus stop after dark when he was shot on Oct. 9. Monica Hoffa, 32, was walking through the neighborhood two days later to meet a friend when she was shot. Anthony Naiboa, 20, was trying to find a bus stop when he was shot on Oct. 19.

Police say they think a single killer is behind all three attacks because they happened so near to each other at roughly the same time in the evening and without any obvious motive.

“We need everyone to come out of their homes at night and turn on their porch lights and just not tolerate this type of terrorism in the neighborhood,” Brian Dugan, the Tampa police department’s interim chief, told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

He said people should not go out alone and should pay attention to their surroundings.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer or killers.

Police have released an indistinct video of a person wearing a hooded top they think may be the killer.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jeffrey Benkoe)

 

Egyptian jets press home attacks on Libya’s Derna: commanders

Smoke rises during heavy clashes between rival factions in Tripoli, Libya, May 27, 2017.

By Ayman Al-Warfalli

BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Egyptian jets carried out air strikes on the Libyan city of Derna on Monday, continuing days of attacks against Islamist militants Egypt says were responsible for ambushing and killing Egyptian Christians last week, Libyan commanders said.

Egypt’s air force began the attacks just hours after masked men boarded vehicles driving dozens of people to a monastery in the southern Egyptian province of Minya and opened fire at close range, killing 29 and wounding 24.

A witness said on Monday one attack hit the western entrance to Derna and two others hit Dahr al-Hamar in the city’s south.

“The air strikes are joint ones between the Libyan National Army and Egyptian army,” Ahmad Messmari, a spokesman for Libyan National Army, an eastern Libyan faction allied with Egypt.

An Egyptian military spokesman declined to comment. But Libyan operational commander Brigadier Abdulsalam Al-Hasi told Reuters the strikes targeted Majlis Mujahideen Derna and Abu Salim brigade, two local Libyan groups allied with al Qaeda.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said Egypt had targeted militant bases in Libya “to get rid of them and to limit their ability to threaten Egypt’s national security”.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Shoukry said Egypt looked forward to “Russia utilising all of its available capabilities to work together to get rid of terrorism”.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for last week’s attack in Egypt, the latest targeting the Christian minority there. Two church bombings also claimed by Islamic State killed more than 45 people last month.

According to Yasser Risk, chairman of state newspaper Akhbar Elyoum and a former war correspondent with close ties to Egypt’s presidency, 15 targets were hit on the first day of strikes, including in Derna and Jafra, in central Libya, where what he called “terrorism centres” were located.

He said the targets included leadership headquarters as well as training camps and weapons storage facilities. Sixty jets were used in the earlier raids, he said.

Egypt has carried out air strikes in Libya occasionally since its neighbour descended into factional fighting in the years following the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

Islamist militant groups, including Islamic State, have gained ground in the chaos, and Derna, a city of about 150,000 that straddles the coastal highway linking Libya to Egypt, has a long history with Islamist militancy.

Islamic State first attempted to establish a presence in Libya in Derna, but it faced armed resistance from more locally affiliated militant groups including Majlis Mujahideen Derna coalition and Abu Salim brigade. It was driven out of the city in 2015 and later set up its main Libyan base in Sirte.

Egypt has been backing eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army has been fighting Islamist militant groups and other fighters in Benghazi and Derna for more than two years.

Messmari told reporters in Benghazi late on Sunday that Haftar’s forces were coordinating with Egypt’s military and the weekend raids targeted ammunition stores and operations camps.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Friday the air raids targeted militants responsible for plotting the attack, and that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country.

(Additional reporting by Asma Alsharif and Ahmed Aboulenein in Cairo; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland and Giles Elgood)

Two Miami police officers shot in ambush-style attack: police

(Reuters) – A group of men shot and wounded two police officers in an ambush-style attack outside an apartment building in Miami late on Monday, media reported.

The officers were in an unmarked car at about 10 p.m. at the Annie Coleman housing projects, known as “The Rockies,” when the men walked up to the vehicle and opened fire, the Miami Herald newspaper reported.

At least one of the officers fired back, John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade police union, said, and both survived the attack in the city’s Brownsville district.

“They were outnumbered and outgunned. God was watching over them tonight,” Rivera told the newspaper.

The unidentified officers were in stable condition at a local hospital, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez told journalists.

“Our officers are out there every night risking their lives trying to bring safety to the community and what you saw today was an ambush-style attack on our police officers,” Perez said.

One of the officers was shot in the leg and the other was grazed by a bullet, the Herald reported.

Other police near the scene rushed the officers to hospital in the back of a pick-up truck, the newspaper reported. The two wounded men are part of a homicide task force-gang unit, it added.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Police officers shot in Texas, Missouri and Florida

San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi, 50, is shown in this photo provided by the San Antonio Police Department, in San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A police officer was killed in Texas and another wounded in Missouri in apparently unrelated ambush-style shootings, while a third officer was shot and wounded in Florida, authorities said on Monday.

The latest attacks on U.S. law enforcement revived painful memories of deadly ambushes targeting police in July in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

A manhunt was underway for the suspect who killed the officer in San Antonio, Texas, while the suspect in the Missouri shooting died in a shootout with authorities.

In Sunday’s first incident, 50-year-old Benjamin Marconi, a 20-year veteran of the San Antonio force was fatally shot as he sat in his squad car during a routine traffic stop outside the city’s police headquarters.

The assailant stopped his car behind the police cruiser, walked up and shot the officer in the head through the window as he was writing a ticket, Police Chief William McManus said.

The gunman then reached through the window, fired a second shot into the officer, returned to his vehicle and sped away.

Hours later, a 46-year-old St. Louis police sergeant was shot in the face by someone in a car who pulled up beside the officer’s cruiser at an intersection, opened fire, then fled. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the wounded officer was conscious and able to speak after the attack.

The suspect was later killed in a shootout after officers spotted his car, police said on Monday.

The unidentified suspect was wanted for other violent crimes and likely shot the officer “in fear of being recognized,” police said in a statement.

‘WORST NIGHTMARE’

Meanwhile, a third police officer was shot during a traffic stop on Sanibel Island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, but was not seriously hurt, local media reported.

The officer was treated for a shoulder wound and later released from the hospital, according to the reports, while the suspect was apprehended at his home on an island off Ft. Myers.

Investigators in Texas said they did not have any immediate clues to the identity of the San Antonio gunman. They found no apparent link with the man who had been pulled over, McManus told reporters.

“This is everyone’s worst nightmare,” McManus said. Referring to the recent ambush killings of police officers in Texas and Louisiana, he said, “You never want to see anything like this happen. Unfortunately, like Dallas, like Baton Rouge, it’s happened here now.”

McManus said the suspect’s image was captured by security cameras.

McManus did not say whether police believe there was a racial element to the shooting. He said San Antonio officers were being ordered to call for backup during traffic stops.

The latest shootings come amid an intense national debate over the role of law enforcement and especially the use of force by officers against minorities.

In July, five Dallas police officers were killed when a black U.S. military veteran opened fire during a protest against police shootings of black men. Days later, a gunman killed three police officers and wounded four others in Baton Rouge.

Earlier this month, an Iowa man was charged with killing two police officers who were shot in their patrol cars in the Des Moines area. He had been ejected by police from a high school football game after waving a confederate flag at black spectators.

A total of 57 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed by gunfire so far this year, a 68 percent increase from the same period in 2015.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, and by Chris Michaud and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jeffrey Benkoe)