Lead investigator in Salcedo case slain in Mexico

EL MONTE — The lead investigator in the slaying of a Southern California school board member in Mexico has been killed in an ambush, authorities said Saturday.
Mexican officials wouldn’t say whether investigator Manuel Acosta’s killing was related to the killing of Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo last month.
Acosta, 42, was ambushed near his office Jan. 15 by gunmen in a pickup truck. He was shot several times in the chest and torso, but survived in critical condition. He succumbed to his wounds Tuesday.
Authorities didn’t immediately disclose the attack, saying they hoped to better protect Acosta by letting his assailants assume he was dead. Five others were killed in the attack.
His death was first reported in Mexico’s Milenio newspaper and confirmed to an American newspaper Saturday by Martin Chavez, spokesman for the city of Gomez Palacio.
It’s unclear what impact the death of Acosta will have on the case, in which little progress has been reported.
Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, who expressed outrage after Salcedo’s killing on Dec. 31, said she was “shocked and dismayed” to learn of the death of the lead investigator in the case.
“It shows the degree to which the drug cartels are out of control,” Chu said. “It’s unimaginable too that they would dare murder the investigator in such a high-profile case.”
The congresswoman added that the recent development further demonstrates the need to have the investigation handled by federal authorities in Mexico, not just local police.
“This actually furthers my resolve to make this a federal case for law enforcement in Mexico,” she said.
Based on a conversation with the U.S. ambassador to Mexico on Wednesday, Chu said she remains hopeful that may occur.
First, she said, “They need to find a legal means to do so.”
Federal authorities in the U.S. have already offered assistance in the investigation, Chu said, primarily by examining forensic evidence.
Salcedo’s family members could not be reached for comment Saturday.
El Monte <NO1>city <NO>Councilwoman Emily Ishigaki said she was “stunned” to learn of the investigator’s death.
El Monte Chief of Police Tom Armstrong said it is always a sad occasion to learn of the death of a law enforcement officer.
“It’s a tragedy wherever it happens,” he said. “We pray for his family, and we pray that the perpetrators are arrested.”
Armstrong said he knew Salcedo through city business.
“He was one of El Monte’s current and future leaders,” the chief said. “It was obvious not only by his involvement in his chosen profession, education, but being involved in public policy as it related to schools.”
“It was a shock to everyone to learn of his passing in such an unnecessary and violent way,” he added.
Salcedo, a 33-year-old assistant principal, was killed Dec. 31 while he and his wife were visiting relatives in Gomez Palacio. Salcedo and five other people were abducted from a restaurant and later found shot in the head, their bodies dumped in the outskirts of town.
Salcedo, a Southern California native, is believed to have been the first U.S. elected official killed in the 4-year-old Mexican drug war.
Gomez Palacio is ground zero of the drug war. Authorities suspect a drug cartel was involved in the killings, including Salcedo’s.
A few days after his death, about 5,000 people gathered for a vigil in Salcedo’s honor in El Monte, where he had been a teacher, coach and school administrator.

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