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High Ranking Tijuana Police Officers, Family Members Murdered

In a recent night of bloody violence in Tijuana, men armed to the hilt went on a shooting rampage. By early Tuesday morning, in the space of just six hours, they murdered at least six people including

High Ranking Tijuana Police Officers, Family Members Murdered

In a recent night of bloody violence in Tijuana, men armed to the hilt went on a shooting rampage. By early Tuesday morning, in the space of just six hours, they murdered at least six people including three high ranking policemen, some members of their families and an eleven year old girl. KPBS Border Reporter Amy Isackson has the story.

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At a mid day press conference at the police station in this Mexican border city, officers outside hid their faces behind black masks and had their machine guns at the ready. Grim faced law enforcement officials descended from a parade of black armored Suburbans. They went inside to face a room that overflowed with stunned reporters.

Tijuana's top security chief Alberto Capella recounted the night's grisly events.

(Translated) Capella says it began with a call at 10:40 p.m. reporting gun fire near one of Tijuana's main traffic arteries.

Agents arrived and found the district's police chief slumped over his steering wheel with half his face shot off.  His second in command was in the passenger's seat riddled with bullets.

A few hours later, police found a young mother dead in a home nearby.  Her three year old son was gravely injured. He lay amongst the 200 bullet casings littering the floor.

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(Translated) Capella explains the rampage then continued as gun fire broke the dawn silence in one of Tijuana's more humble neighborhoods. In the end, another high ranking police commander lay dead, this one in his bed.

His wife and four-year-old daughter clung to life next to his body. The wife later died of her gunshot wounds along with the couple's other girl who was 11.

Police are tightlipped on details and motives for these six murders. Though, Baja California's Attorney General believes the case is tied to drug cartels.

Veteran Tijuana crime reporter Rafael Morales says in his 14 years covering the city's often brutal violence he hasn't seen anything like this.

(Translated) Morales says the people who normally die have ties to drug cartels. But, a massacre like this -- never.

This wave of violence comes as hundreds of federal police are streaming into Tijuana. They're the second group of reinforcements Mexican President Felipe Calderon has sent to the city in a year to help tame the drug violence. In fact, local law enforcement say the killings may be in retaliation for their crackdown.

Police official Alberto Capella.

(Translated) Capella says what police are doing is working.

However, for many Tijuana residents fear still runs wild.

Adriana Alvarado pushed her baby boy in a stroller in downtown Tijuana.

Alvarado: We live with Jesus in our mouth. It's like every time we walk out the house, it's like oh, God, help us. It's like just saying hey, we're in your hands.

Local human rights activist, Victor Clark, is nearly as fatalistic.

He says the border city's shocking body count, especially these six murders, mock officials' claims of success.

Clark predicts the current crime that has Tijuana in a chokehold could be long term because law enforcement appears powerless.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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