Crime and Violence

Federal Police open fire on a U.S. Embassy vehicle

The U.S. Embassy vehicle remains guarded by Mexican military officials following the attack on Friday, August 24. Two U.S. Embassy attachés were injured by the gun fire, though remain in stable condition in a Mexico City hospital. Photo: Reuters

08/25/12 – On August 24, a diplomatic vehicle from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico was fired upon multiple times by unidentified individuals among whom were Mexican Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) who were conducting anti-crime operations in the area. Two U.S. officials and a Mexican Navy officer were wounded during the shooting, which took place while driving on a highway that connects Mexico City with Cuernavaca, Morelos. The injured were treated for their wounds at a hospital in Cuernavaca where they were stabilized before being transferred to Mexico City.

According to reports form authorities from both countries, the U.S. officers were heading to a military installation in the town of El Capulin to conduct training for members of the Mexican military. Around 8:00 a.m. the diplomatic vehicle (SUV) was driving on the highway between the communities of Tres Marias and Huitzilac when they were approached by a vehicle whose unidentified passengers displayed weapons and, according to several versions, opened fire against the Toyota SUV. As the driver of the U.S. vehicle tried to escape, three other vehicles joined the first unidentified vehicle and started chasing them. Reports indicate that a Federal Police patrol was involved. Passengers in all four vehicles allegedly fired upon the U.S. car, while a Mexican Navy officer traveling with the U.S. personnel called for help to a nearby military station. After a series of gunshots, the U.S. vehicle stopped on the highway–though it is not clear whether the driver stopped because of the wounds–where it came under fire again, mostly on the passenger-side window. Despite it being bulletproof and armored, the intense attacks penetrated the vehicle’s protection and injured the passengers. Upon the Navy’s arrival to the scene, the area was cordoned off and guarded by more than 100 heavily armed marines and soldiers who closed the highway off for hours.

The news of alleged involvement of Mexico’s Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) in the shootings quickly escalated the level of scrutiny and interest in the case. The PF acknowledged that its own officers, who were in the area conducting anti-crime operations, did indeed fire on the Embassy’s vehicle, but did not explain why. Nevertheless, a U.S. official who was briefed on the shooting said later that all the shots were said to have been fired by Federal Police, though that still remains unclear at this point. Mexican prosecutors at the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) released a statement late Friday affirming that 12 police officers were being held for questioning. According to the officers’ legal representative, the detainees remain in custody of the PGR, but apparently were initially held incommunicado for up to 20 hours. Their attorney also noted they were granted an amparo to be released until formal charges are presented.

The U.S. Embassy said it was helping Mexican authorities conduct the investigation. It reported that the wounded were not agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), though officials from neither country identified which agency they worked for. News sources, however, did release some information, naming the injured individuals as Stan Dove Boss (50) and Jess Hods Garner (49), both functionaries of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said that they received appropriate medical care and are in stable condition. U.S. Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar, who closely follows the relations between the United States and Mexico, added that both countries appeared to be working together to determine the cause of the shooting.

This is the third attack on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Mexico in two years. As the Justice in Mexico Project reported, “three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez were killed in two separate attacks” on March 13, 2010. A year later, on February 15, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata was killed, while another was wounded, when gunmen fired on their vehicle while driving through northern Mexico.


“Three linked to U.S. Consulate killed in Ciudad Juárez.” Justice in Mexico Project. March 15, 2010.

“U.S. Agent killed by Mexican Gunmen.” Justice in Mexico Project. February 17, 2011.

Organización Editorial Mexicana. “Dispararon federales a funcionarios de la Embajada de EU.” El Sol de Cuernavaca. August 24, 2012.

“Mexican police open fire on US embassy car.” The Telegraph. August 24, 2012.

“Policía Federal fue quien disparó a automóvil diplomático de EU.” Diario La Verdad. August 24, 2012.

Castillo, Eduardo. “Mexico probes why federal cops fired at US gov car.” Associated Press. August 25, 2012.

Redacción. “Denuncian incomunicación con federales.” Reforma. August 25, 2012.

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