A 14-year-old boy has been arrested for the drive-by shootings of eight people in a suburb of Mexico City, according to Mexico’s Public Safety Department. The boy’s name has not been made public, though he was identified by his nickname “El Chapito” in a government press release.
The killings took place on Jan. 22 in Chimalhuacan, a town in the Greater Mexico City area. Police allege the teenager and another man dubbed “El Ñoño” rode up on motorcycles to a house party and unleashed a hail of bullets. Three people died at the scene with five others later succumbing to their injuries in hospital.
Seven others were injured in the attack, including two minors aged three and 14. The partygoers that day were reportedly celebrating a birthday. A photo taken by Mexican media of the crime scene showed scattered chairs and a trampoline on the lawn with balloons and decorations set up.
Police say the slayings were related to drug cartel activity. El Chapito and El Ñoño were arrested for murder in a weekend raid along with seven other people, allegedly fellow members of a local gang, who were indicted on drug charges.
The nickname El Chapito, or Little Chapo, is an apparent reference to imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. El Ñoño means “the nerd.”
The motive in the killings has not been made public, but drug gangs in Mexico frequently dabble in kidnapping and contract killing. They also kill rivals selling drugs on their territory, or people who owe them money.
Mexico is also no stranger to child killers. Drug cartels have infamously exploited children as “sicarios” or assassins because minors receive shorter prison sentences.
In 2010, soldiers detained a 14-year-old boy nicknamed “El Ponchis” who claimed he was kidnapped at age 11 and forced to work for the Cartel of the South Pacific, a branch of the splintered Beltran Leyva gang. He said he had participated in at least four decapitations.
After his arrest, the boy, who authorities identified only by his first name, Edgar, told reporters that he was drugged and threatened into committing the crimes.
A 2021 study from the Network for Children’s Rights in Mexico estimated that there are 30,000 children working for cartels as lookouts, street-level dealers and sicarios. The organization found that a quarter of a million children are at risk of being recruited by cartels.
— With files from The Associated Press
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