The bullet holes pockmarking the walls of his home were just three days old when Alberto Capella Ibarra took over the police force of violence-plagued Tijuana, Mexico. Twenty gunmen dressed in black had swarmed his yard in the middle of the night, and he’d fought them off, firing an automatic rifle. Taking office Dec. 1 as the city’s secretary for public security, Capella, a longtime activist, declared war on organized crime and challenged citizens to join him in the battle.
Even he had no idea it would get so bloody. Seventeen people were killed last week as organized crime struck back. Last Monday night and Tuesday morning, heavily armed men killed three of Capella’s senior police officers, shooting one at his home along with his wife and two daughters. Two days later, schoolchildren ran for their lives as police and soldiers battled with drug cartel members in a normally quiet neighborhood. Police found six executed kidnap victims inside the suspects’ house. A federal agent and a gunman died in the shootout. Capella moves around the city in a six-car convoy with 20 bodyguards. In a recent speech, he scolded citizens for not holding political leaders accountable and for cynicism. “It’s as if criminals have corrupted us all,” said Capella, his voice cracking. “Nobody lifts a finger.”