The bodies of a 16-year-old Hispanic woman and her 10-month-old son were found lifeless outside their home in Goshen County, California, in the early hours of Monday, January 16, the result of a shooting.
According to the forensics, the people who shot the mother and her baby stood over their bodies to carry out the murders. Four other people, including a grandmother asleep in her bed, were killed with similar "cold professionalism" "shot in the forehead from above, execution style."
Although it is not yet clear what could have triggered the massacre, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux compared the event to executions carried out by drug cartels.
An unidentified drug cartel
Boudreaux initially described the massacre as an attack led by an unspecified drug cartel. In a statement, he said "the drug cartel (...) What else could explain the depravity of executing a baby?" The sheriff told the Los Angeles Times, "I think it's specifically cartel-related. The level of violence... this was no ordinary gang member."
A day later, at a press conference in which he identified the six victims and asked the public to help with the investigation, the sheriff modified his statement, although he insisted on the following:
I am not pointing to any poster. I am saying that what happened is similar to what we have seen regarding cartel executions (...) Although I have not eliminated that possibility (...) These people clearly shot them in the head and also in places that the gunmen knew would be quick kills (...) We don't know if it is a gang-related shooting, cartel-related shooting, or a combination.
Boudreaux said investigators were looking for at least two suspects. The victims, many of whom were family, ranged in age from 10 months to 62, and nearly all were shot in the head:
None of this was by accident. It was deliberate, intentional and horrible (...) We are looking under every stone. These people will be brought to justice.
Cartels present in the area
Authorities consider the Goshen region to be "vulnerable to drug trafficking from the border." They transport large amounts of cocaine, heroin and other narcotics. The Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels, two of Mexico's largest drug trafficking groups, operate in the area. Both are involved in illegally growing marijuana in forest reserves and then distrubuting the durg to other states in the country:
We have cartels in the Central Valley, in Tulare County (...) The cartels are here for several reasons: selling drugs is lucrative, there is a lot of money to be made, they are focused on money. The other (reason) is that we have a very insecure border.
The sheriff also stated that the property where the massacre occurred was a "known home in the department" for constant gang activity. He said agents found weapons, marijuana and methamphetamine in the house on January 3, following a parole compliance check of one of the deceased.
The autopsies on the six victims are expected to be completed on Friday. Tulare County Supervisor Eddi Valero stated:
These senseless acts of violence, especially with infants, children and young adults, have no place in our communities (...) It is everyone's worst nightmare.