World

Mexico probes shooting of famed ex-police chief credited with cleaning up border cities

Authorities in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua say they're probing a shooting that seriously wounded a former police chief who had been targeted by drug cartels while cutting crime in violence-wracked Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Chihuahua chief prosecutor Jorge Gonzalez said two low-level drug dealers were captured minutes after Friday's shooting of Julian Leyzaola, but he offered no details about a motive. The local newspaper Diario de Juarez reported the men insisted they did not know who they had been hired to shoot.

Leyzaola was hospitalized over the weekend with at least two bullet wounds, but was no longer in danger of dying.

The former army officer was credited with sharply cutting crime while heading police in Tijuana from 2008 to 2010 and Ciudad Juarez from 2011 to 2013, though critics accused him of sometimes torturing suspected dirty cops as he tried to clean up the departments.

He denied the allegations and was never charged, though he embraced the tough image. "We need extreme measures to re-establish order," he once said.

His selection as chief in Tijuana, a city then suffering rampant homicides and other crimes, was part of former President Felipe Calderon's strategy of putting military men in charge of local police forces widely seen as infiltrated by the cartels.

Leyzaola used his close links with the military to help coordinate crackdowns in both cities, and sometimes slept at a military base while leading the Tijuana force.

Prosecutors said Tijuana drug gangs had repeatedly plotted to kill him, and in Juarez, one cartel accused him of favoring a rival gang. It took to attacking officers, at one point vowing to kill an officer a day until he resigned.

He ordered all the department's officers to move out of their homes and into guarded hotels.

After finally retiring, he opened a private security company, but apparently shunned special protection himself.

On Friday, two men drove up as Leyzaola was with his wife and son at an exchange house and opened fire. He was the only one hit.