FBI will join search for killers of El Monte school official in Mexico

An agency spokeswoman says the Mexican government requested the aid. School board member Bobby Salcedo was one of six men gunned down in Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango last week.

By Hector Becerra (LA Times)
January 8, 2010
casket

The FBI will join Mexican investigators in their search for the killers of El Monte school board member Bobby Salcedo and five other men in the central Mexico city of Gomez Palacio.

Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman, said the Mexican government asked for the agency’s help in the investigation into last week’s slayings, though she declined to elaborate on what that assistance would specifically involve.

“Mexican law enforcement is leading the investigation and has jurisdiction in the crime, but we’re providing them whatever assistance they need,” she said.

Salcedo, who also was an assistant principal at El Monte High School, was laid to rest Thursday after a standing-room-only funeral Mass.

A large American flag was hoisted on Tyler Avenue just outside Nativity Church in El Monte, where somber friends and family gathered along with dignitaries including Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), who has urged Mexican authorities to aggressively investigate the killings and to work with federal law enforcement.

After the Mass, a long procession of cars traveled to Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, where Salcedo’s body was interred.

“His death brought everyone in the community together,” said Edward Guerrero, 15, a student at Arroyo High School in El Monte as he stood outside the church.

The 33-year-old El Monte educator was slain in Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango along with five other men after being abducted from a bar by masked gunmen. Their bodies were found hours later. Salcedo had been in the city of 240,000, his wife’s hometown, to celebrate the holidays.

Salcedo had deep ties to the central Mexican city.

The school administrator, who was born and raised in California, was a past president of the South El Monte-Gomez Palacio sister cities organization and raised money for scholarships, clinics, firefighters, orphanages and playgrounds.

Salcedo was killed by a single gunshot to the head, said an official in the state attorney general’s office in Gomez Palacio.

Most of the other men also had been killed with a single gunshot, but two bore numerous gunshot wounds, suggesting that they were the targets, the official said.

None of the men killed with Salcedo had criminal records, but investigators suspect that one or two might have been drug dealers. No evidence indicates that Salcedo had been specifically targeted, authorities said.

Durango has become a battlefield in Mexico’s drug wars. The local police chief, Roberto de Jesus Torres, was gunned down the evening of Dec. 2 as he left his home, and four days later the former mayor of Gomez Palacio was kidnapped and eventually released.

A spokesman for the current mayor of Gomez Palacio said he was declining to comment at the moment “because of questions of security.”

The spokesman said the mayor “grieves tremendously for what happened.”

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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