The alleged boss of a criminal gang that carried out an armed attack on prominent journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva last December was arrested in the United States on Monday.
The Federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR) said that the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detained Armando Escárcega – aka “El Patrón” (The Boss) – in Delano, California.
The FGR said that it had asked U.S. authorities to arrest Escárcega for the purposes of extradition, noting that he is accused in Mexico of “criminal association within the criminal cell that made an attempt on the life of the journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva.”
The federal authority, which last month assumed responsibility for the investigation into the crime, said that the suspect was put before a judge “for his extradition.”
Gunmen shot at Gómez, a television and radio broadcaster, while he was driving in southern Mexico City on Dec. 15, but he was not injured.
“At 11:10 pm, 200 meters from my house, two people on a motorcycle shot at me, apparently with the clear intention of killing me,” Gómez said on social media after the attack.
“I was saved by the armor plating of my truck … and I have informed the authorities of the matter,” he said.
Numerous media reports described Escárcega as the alleged “intellectual author,” or mastermind, of the attack on Gómez, a news anchor at Imagen Televisión. But the journalist himself said that description wasn’t entirely accurate.
“I saw yesterday that some media outlets … said that the mastermind of the attack was arrested. As far as I understand … that’s not exactly the case,” Gómez said on Radio Fórmula on Tuesday morning.
He said that other people who have been arrested in connection with the attack have told authorities that Escárcega hired them and paid them, both with money and drugs.
“He hadn’t finished paying them for the attack, according to what we saw in testimony,” Gómez said, adding that “El Patrón” is not the mastermind of the crime, but “the coordinator, the boss of what they call the execution cell.”
He suggested that someone “a level above” above Escárcega, or more than one level above, was really responsible for planning the attempt on his life. A motive for the attack has not been publicly disclosed.
The FGR didn’t identify the criminal group to which Escárcega allegedly belongs, but Gómez has previously said that “information obtained by authorities” speaks of a “link” between the gunmen who attacked him and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio said Tuesday that with the arrest of Escárcega, 19 people have been detained in connection with the Dec. 15 attack on Gómez. At least 11 of that number were arrested on Jan. 11.
Rodríguez said that the FGR, the National Intelligence Center and the federal Security Ministry have collaborated on “investigation and intelligence work” related to the crime.
Gómez had expressed dissatisfaction with Mexico City authorities’ handling of the case, and requested that responsibility for it be transferred to the FGR.
“The federal Judge Manuel Edmundo Parúaka today agreed to the Federal Attorney General’s Office taking charge of the investigation … into the attack I suffered on Dec. 15. Good news for me, it’s what I requested on Aug. 17,” he wrote on the X social media site in late September.