Part two of a two-part series examining the San Diego impacts of Mexico’s escalating drug war. Read part one.
Monday, March 16, 2009 | The news media described it as a brazen midday carjacking on busy Ingraham Street in Pacific Beach. There were three hooded gunmen. The car was a 2007 BMW. The victims were a young man and his girlfriend headed for Rocky’s Crown Pub.
A witness called 911 after he saw the gunmen force the couple back into the car. It made for good TV because San Diego Police Department officers spotted the BMW and the chase was captured on the police helicopter’s video camera. The timely 911 call, on Feb. 3, ended up saving the day. The victims were safe, the car was unscathed, the gunmen jailed.
But it wasn’t what it seemed.
One of the victims, a U.S. citizen, is a suspected drug dealer who’d supposedly run afoul of the ruthless Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. The accused kidnappers, who have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for a preliminary hearing next month, are believed to be street gang members sent to abduct him and settle the score.
This spillover of drug-related violence is an unintended consequence of the successful crackdown in recent years on the Arellano Felix Organization. What’s left of the AFO, plus splinter groups and rival cartels, are battling for control of the Southern California trafficking corridor.