UPDATE: Nov. 6 — Mexican officials say that the first person arrested during the investigation of the deaths of nine Americans in the Mexican state of Sonora was not involved in their murders.
Public security official Alfonso Durazo said on Wednesday afternoon that the suspect who was arrested Tuesday does not appear to be involved in the deaths of the three American women and six children, according to The Associated Press.
Mexican law enforcement officers have made an arrest in connection with the massacre of nine Americans in the state of Sonora on Monday, according to Mexican authorities.
In a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook, the top law enforcement agency in Sonora — a state along the Arizona-Mexico border ― said it had apprehended one heavily armed suspect who was holding two gagged hostages in a vehicle located in the town of Agua Prieta.
On Monday, nine members of an American family living in Sonora, including six children, died after being sprayed with assault rifle fire as they drove in a caravan from Mexico to the United States, according to Mexican authorities. Four other people were injured in the attack, they said.
Various reports since the shooting have said the LeBaron family — a Mormon family that migrated from the U.S. to Mexico decades ago — may have been killed by gang members in Agua Prieta who believed they were attacking members of an opposing cartel.
Mexican officials have stopped short of assigning a motive to the shooting, but their Facebook post Tuesday attributed the massacre to “criminal groups.”
La Agencia de Investigación Criminal, Sonora’s top criminal investigation agency, said Tuesday that it had found three charred vehicles riddled with bullet holes, dispersed miles apart on different northern Mexico roads and containing nine dead bodies believed to belong to members of the LeBaron family. The agency said it recovered more than 200 ammunition shells from the three scenes combined, connecting the deaths to high-powered, 7mm and .223-caliber rifles.
A spate of violence in Mexico has elevated concerns about crime and public safety in a country already gripped by bloody gang wars. On Oct. 15, 13 Mexican police officers were killed in an ambush by a local cartel. Days later, another cartel ambush on Mexican security forces led to the release of a son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the infamous Mexican drug lord.
President Donald Trump, in a string of tweets on Tuesday morning, declared: “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.”
In response to calls from both Mexican and U.S. officials demanding he be more forceful in suppressing the cartels, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a Wednesday press conference that a “war” between the gangs and the government would be ill-advised.
“It’s unfortunate, sad, because children died. This is painful,” López Obrador said. “But trying to resolve this problem by declaring a war? In our country, it’s been shown that this doesn’t work.”
Carla Herreria contributed to this report.