A Mexican military helicopter gunship fired on the alleged hideout of a drug kingpin in one of a pair of raids that left 12 suspects dead, including the cartel capo, Mexican authorities said Friday.
Spectacular footage of the helicopter firing late Thursday on an urban district in the city of Tepic, capital of western Nayarit state, appeared on social media and Mexican television.
The video, apparently shot by a witness, shows the low-flying helicopter, its spotlight occasionally illuminating the area, pouring gunfire toward a target in the city’s Lindavista district.
Shootouts between authorities and heavily armed gangs are relatively common in Mexico, where criminal syndicates wield immense power and influence. But images of a military helicopter pumping rounds into a heavily populated city are unusual.
In a statement, the Mexican Navy said federal forces mounting an operation against drug traffickers in Tepic were met by high-powered weapons. Commanders summoned the aircraft to reduce the danger of injuries to civilians and officers, the statement said. Use of the helicopter was in accordance with military guidelines, the Navy said.
Eight suspects were killed in the raid, authorities said, including the suspected gang leader, identified as Juan Francisco Patron Sanchez, known as H2. He allegedly headed regional operations for Mexico’s powerful Beltran Leyva drug cartel.
A second shootout between authorities and alleged drug gang accomplices near the city airport killed four other suspects from the same criminal syndicate, the military said.
Some press accounts linked Patron Sanchez to an attack on Army troops last September in the state of Sinaloa that left five soldiers dead and ten injured.
On Friday, Roberto Sandoval Castaneda, the governor of Nayarit state, told reporters the state was at peace despite a number of recent violent episodes involving criminal gangs.
“In Nayarit,” the governor said, “there is only room for the state of law, respect for the law and peace.”
Cecilia Sanchez in The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.