Avoid Driving Through Sinaloa – Surfers Killed. Mexican authorities have arrested three gang members and are searching for two more accused of robbing and killing two Australian surfers on a highway in Sinaloa.
The Chevy van in which Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas, both 33, were driving was last sighted by a highway toll booth camera at 2:23am on November 21.
Soon after it is alleged that 37-year-old Sergio Simon Benitez Gonzalez, who was acting as a spotter for a gang, called ahead to his accomplices to warn them a target was on its way.
The attorney-general of Sinaloa Marco, Antonio Higuera Gomez, said a Cherokee Jeep then drove up alongside the Australians with fake police lights flashing and with the four occupants wearing police uniforms.
Mr Coleman and Mr Dean were then pulled over at which point 38-year-old Luis Enrique Espinoza Bojorquez pointed a .223 rifle at the Australians, who realised they were being robbed.
When one of the gang attempted to get into the Chevy van, the Australians fought him off.
Mr Higuera said at that point they were allegedly then shot by the gang leader, 27-year-old Julio Cesar Gonzalez Muniz, with a .357 magnum before Espinoza Bojorquez then shot and killed them both.
Espinoza Bojorquez then is alleged to have taken the Australians’ van off the highway, stolen their electronics, removed the number plates and burnt the vehicle with the bodies inside.
Mexican police are also searching for Jesus Uriel Camacho Labrado, 20, and Martin Rogelio Muniz Ponce, 27, who are also believed to have been involved in the carjacking.
Guns, hand cuffs, crystal meth found at suspect’s house
Mr Higuera stressed that while the case was being investigated as a murder, the identity of the two bodies has yet to be confirmed through DNA tests.
It has been reported that Mexican authorities hope to have the DNA identification of the bodies confirmed within a fortnight.
Mr Higuera said at Benitez Gonzalez’s house they found stolen mobile phones, other electronic equipment, five guns, 173 gun cartridges, police jackets, a siren, handcuffs as well as 124 packets of crystal meth.
He said Gonzalez Muniz and Muniz Ponce were arrested the same day — Espinoza Bojorquez and Camacho Labrado, who were both in the Jeep remain on the run.
Mr Higuera said all face charges that could result in between 22 and 50 years in jail.
“These people are part of a criminal group dedicated to vehicle thefts, drug dealing and with a history of committing murders,” he said.
Mexican authorities have released photographs of evidence in the investigation which show municipal and federal police uniforms as well as masks seized from the suspects.
Large camper vans attacked before on Sinaloa roads
The van the Australian men were travelling in was found on a rural road ahead of the town of Navolato.
Navolato’s mayor Miguel Calderon Quevado has described the region as a “Bermuda Triangle” of crimesthat include robberies, murders and kidnappings.
The ABC has been told the area the Australian men were travelling through is under the control of cartel loyal to fugitive drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.
Mr Coleman and Mr Lucas had driven from Edmonton, Canada and across the United States to Mexico to join Mr Coleman’s Mexican girlfriend in the western city of Guadalajara.
Andrea Comez, Mr Coleman’s girlfriend, who listed the two men as missing, said “in my heart I will get justice for them”.
More than $60,000 has been raised on the crowdfunding website gofundme to help the two men’s parents travel to Mexico and bring their sons home.
The Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website warns that tourists in large camper vans have been attacked on Sinaloa roads.
“Incidents of violent carjackings have increased significantly, particularly in northern border areas, but also along the Pacific coast,” the website reads.
“On occasions these attacks have been carried out by heavily armed gangs posing as police officers.”