EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A high-level gang member gave the order to kill in a 2010 attack that killed a U.S. consulate employee and others, prosecutors said Monday during opening statements in the trial of Arturo Gallegos Castrellon.
Defense attorneys waived their statement as proceedings began in the El Paso trial of Gallegos Castrellon, who prosecutors say is a member of the Barrio Azteca, a border gang affiliated with a drug cartel.
He's accused in a multicount indictment of drug trafficking, money laundering and participating in the shootings that killed Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, a U.S. consulate worker in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. Her husband and the husband of another consulate employee also were killed.
Prosecutor Joseph Cooley, trial attorney of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Department of Justice, said they know Gallegos Castrellon communicated via radio with gang hit men and gave the order to strike Enriquez Catton and her husband, Arthur Redfels, as they left a children's party in Juarez. He also gave the order to shoot Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, who was driving a white Honda Pilot SUV. Days earlier, prosecutors say, Gallegos Castrellon had put out a "lookout" for a white Honda Pilot. They did not say whether they believe Salcido Ceniceros had been mistakenly targeted.
Cooley said that upon encountering Redfels and Eriquez Catton, the hit men radioed that their car was a Toyota, after which Gallegos Castrellon allegedly ordered them killed as they were with the people in the white Honda Pilot.
Cooley also said Gallegos Castrellon was behind a July 2010 attack in which a bomb was placed in a car filled with dead bodies dressed as Mexican policemen. The bombing killed three men, but Gallegos Castrellon is not charged with that crime in the current indictment.
Cooley said prosecutors will prove Gallegos Castrellon's guilt by presenting experts, radio communication recordings, video recordings and cooperating witnesses who belonged to the Barrio Azteca before being arrested. He said some of the witnesses "don't have clean hands" as one has confessed to more than 800 murders in Ciudad Juarez while another has lost count. But, Cooley said, they are in a position to know about the order to kill that prosecutors say Gallegos Castrellon gave in the case.
A Border Patrol agent who was monitoring cameras the day of the attack testified that she saw the events following the shooting. When she saw smoke after Redfels' car crash on her monitor, she pointed the camera to the vehicle and saw dozens of Mexican police officers arriving at the scene.
The prosecution presented a 19-year-old who was identified with a pseudonym. The man was in the car Redfels crashed into after being shot. He identified photos of the bloodied corpses of a man and a woman occupying the white SUV.
Gallegos Castrellon was extradited from Mexico in 2012.
The indictment names 35 defendants. Twenty-five have pleaded guilty while one committed suicide in jail.