EL PASO, Texas -- A member of the Barrio Azteca testified in federal court that Arturo Gallegos Castrellon was the gang leader in charge of teams of hit men in Ciudad Juarez, including the gunmen who killed three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in 2010.
“I was considered Farmero’s right hand man” said Jesus Chavez Castillo, using Castrellon’s nickname.
The prosecution’s main witness described himself as a “soldier” with the Barrio Azteca, a Texas prison gang that now has members in both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
Chavez Castillo, known as “el Camello” or “The Camel,” told the jury in English, Castrellon ordered a team hit men to follow Leslie Enriquez, a consulate employee and her husband Arthur Redelfs, an El Paso Sheriff’s detention officer as they left a children’s party in Ciudad Juarez.
He said a second team tailed a white SUV driven by the husband of another consulate employee who was also leaving the party. She was following in another vehicle with her children.
The jury heard recorded radio conversations that Chavez Castillo said were the voices of the hit men talking to each other before and after the attack.
The Redelfs were ambushed as they approached an international bridge with their baby daughter in the back seat. She survived -- unharmed.
The jury has also seen video of the attack captured by a border patrol camera near the international bridge the couple was trying to cross.
According to Chavez Castillo the Barrio Azteca gang worked with the enforcers for the Juarez cartel known as the “La Linea” and Farmero as a gang leader had a radio with two channels to communicate with the gang and cartel.
The jury heard graphic testimony and viewed photos as Chavez Castillo described his role in beatings, beheadings and dismembering bodies.
As the drug war intensified, the gang turned to the notorious Zeta cartel for training, said Chavez Castillo. He testified he sent two groups of hit men to Torreon, Coahuila where they learned various techniques including how to use AK47s, target people in moving vehicles to hit vital organs, and toss grenades.
The Barrio Azteca stopped the training after the Zetas pressured gang members to stay and join their ranks.
The Barrio Azteca collected extortion money used in part to pay off municipal and federal police officers according to Chavez Castillo. But he said federal police “were accepting payment from a rival cartel too.”
He testified the Barrio Azteca gang in 2010 grew suspicious someone at the U.S. consulate was helping competitors with the rival Sinaloa cartel get visas since there were "so many cheaper drugs being sold in El Paso,” Barrio Azteca territory.
But he also testified that Castrellon ordered the white SUVs tailed and targeted after the birthday party because a similar vehicle had been spotted driving past the alleged gang leader’s Juarez home on numerous occasions.
After the killings he said a gang member who worked closely with the leader asked on the radio, “Farmero wants to know if everybody is dead,” said Chavez Castillo.
Chavez Castillo is one of two Barrio Azteca members scheduled to testify as the murder trial continues in federal court.
Castrellon has pleaded not guilty. He faces life in prison if convicted.