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Mexican police officers detained over shooting of U.S. diplomatic vehicle

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 3:39 AM EDT, Tue August 28, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A judge orders the police officers held for 30 days
  • Two U.S. Embassy employees were wounded in the incident
  • A Mexican Navy official was also in the vehicle that was fired upon
  • Police officers are under investigation on attempted murder and other charges

(CNN) -- A Mexican judge has ordered the detention of 12 federal police officers accused of opening fire on a U.S. diplomatic vehicle south of the capital last week.

Under the judge's order, the officers will be held for 30 days, Jose Luis Manjarrez, a spokesman for the Mexican Attorney-General's Office, said Monday. They will be transferred to Mexico City from the state of Morelos, where they are being held, he said.

The 12 officers are under investigation in relation to five charges, including attempted murder, according to one of their lawyers, Marco Aurelio Gonzalez.

Following the shooting incident Friday, two U.S. Embassy employees, described by a senior U.S. government official as U.S. citizens, were taken to a hospital with nonlife-threatening wounds. A member of the Mexican Navy who was with them in the vehicle suffered light bruises, according to a statement from the Mexican Navy.

Diplomatic vehicle shot up in Mexico

The statement provided the following account of events:

The incident unfolded at 8 a.m. Friday, as the two embassy employees and the Mexican were traveling to a military facility in the municipality of Xalatlaco in a Toyota Land Cruiser. Some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) earlier, they had left the main highway that connects Mexico City with Cuernavaca, near the town of Tres Marias, a thinly populated area off the main road.

When a vehicle containing Federal Police approached and its occupants brandished their weapons, the driver of the diplomatic vehicle tried to evade them and return to the main highway. At that point, the police sprayed bullets into the black SUV with diplomatic plates.

Moments later, three other vehicles carrying Federal Police joined the attack, also shooting at the U.S. Embassy vehicle.

By now, the Mexican Navy official who was in the embassy vehicle had contacted personnel at a nearby military installation, who arrived after the firing had ended and cordoned off the site, the Navy statement said.

Both embassy employees were taken, under Federal Police guard, to a hospital.

Photographs of the SUV showed the embassy vehicle pockmarked with more than a dozen holes and at least three of its tires flat.

In addition to the attempted murder charge, the detained police officers are facing charges of abuse of authority, damage to property, bodily harm and abuse of public duty, according to Gonzalez.

The lawyer said that the officers were investigating a kidnapping when they came across the embassy vehicle, which ignored their requests to stop.

The Mexican Public Security Secretariat has acknowledged in a statement that the officers fired on the armored vehicle with diplomatic plates while they were looking for a group of suspected criminals.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico is cooperating with the investigation into the shooting incident, Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said Monday.

"I'm not going to get ahead of the investigation. I think we're going to wait and see what that concludes," she said when asked whether the incident was an attack or an ambush.

The violent incident is the third in recent years involving U.S. officials in Mexico. In 2010, a U.S. consular employee, her husband and another man died in a gun attack in Ciudad Juarez.

And in 2011, a U.S. immigration and customs agent was killed and another was wounded in an attack by an armed group on a highway in the state of San Luis Potosi.

Violence related to drug gangs has increased in recent years in Morelos, the state where the shooting incident took place Friday.

CNN's Oscar Guadarrama and Rodrigo Aguiar contributed to this report.

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