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Suspected Drug Traffickers Killed In Gun Battle With Mexican Authorities

August 19, 1988

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) _ A gun battle with suspected drug traffickers erupted as soldiers neared a ranch outside this border city, leaving four men dead and at least five wounded, including two Mexican marines, authorities said.

Marines from the coastal city of Ensenada were on routine foot patrol along the coast Thursday morning when they were fired upon as they approached the ranch, said Ramon Del Cid, a commander of the Baja California Judicial Police.

The 22 marines returned fire and called in support from the Mexican army and local, state and federal police, authorities said.

Police sources told The Tribune of San Diego that the shootout occurred as the marines either raided or prepared to raid the ranch.

Those at the ranch may have been tipped off about the raid, triggering the shootout, police told the newspaper. Seven AK-47 assault rifles, pistols and ammunition were recovered by the government troops, a Mexican television station reported.

A federal police commander who declined to be identified told The Associated Press that the incident was believed to be drug-related but refused to elaborate.

Del Cid said all of the dead were suspected narcotics traffickers.

However, a reporter for the newspaper ABC said that four Baja California state judicial police agents were killed. He put the number of wounded at six, including two Mexican army soldiers and two civilians.

The wounded marines, identified as Jesus Garcia Salinas, 23, and Jorge Garcia Villanueva, 20,were listed in stable condition after being transported from a Tijuana hospital to the Naval Hospital in Ensenada, said Dr. Ariel Perez Munoz.

Among those reported dead was Ramon Donato Delaerran Rivas, the 18-year-old son of the ranch owner, whose identity was given as Ramon Donato Delaerran, 52, of Tijuana. Donato Delaerran was reported wounded.

Also killed were Lamberto Castro Gonzalez, 32, Gregorio Fuentes Garcia, 40, and an unidentified 28-year-old man, authorities said.

People in the neighborhood surrounding the ranch said Fuentes Garcia was a former police officer from Durango and was known locally as ″the commandante,″ reported XEWT-TV, a Mexican television station.

Tijuana police sources told the San Diego Union that Fuentes Garcia had been charged with, but never tried for, the 1980 slaying of a policeman in Rosarito, a seaside community south of Tijuana, who was suspected of underworld connections.

A judicial police official interviewed by The Associated Press said that no drugs were recovered as a result of the 6:30 a.m. raid of the ranch. The ranch is about nine miles south of Tijuana.