Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #25: Ambush Kills 15; Injures 5 Police in Jalisco

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #25: Ambush Kills 15; Injures 5 Police in Jalisco

John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker

Fifteen police officers were killed in a ‘military-style’ ambush in Jalisco on the afternoon of Monday, 6 April 2015. The attack resulted in the highest death toll in a single attack on Mexican police since 2010.

Key information:  “Reportan al menos 15 muertos en carretera Mascota-Las Palmas,” GrupoFórmula, 7 April 2015;

Compañeros de los oficiales caídos explicaron que alrededor de las 14:50 horas hombres armados emboscaron el vehículo en el que viajaban hacia la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara y los atacaron desde distintos puntos con armas de alto calibere.

Al menos 15 personas murieron en el enfrentamiento que ocurrió la tarde de este lunes entre presuntos criminales y elementos de la Fuerza Única de Jalisco en la carretera Mascota-Las Palmas, en el poblado de Soyatán, municipio de San Sebastián del Oeste, informaron fuentes de la Fiscalía General del estado.

De acuerdo con la información, se trata de 15 elementos de la Fuerza Única Regional de Jalisco. Además, se reporta el asesinato del titular de la Policía de Zacoalco de Torres, Miguel Ángel Caicedo Vargas.

Compañeros de los oficiales caídos explicaron que alrededor de las 14:50 horas hombres armados emboscaron el vehículo en el que viajaban hacia la Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara y los atacaron desde distintos puntos con armas de alto calibre.

Fuentes cercanas a la investigación detallaron que en la escena del crimen se han localizado varios artefactos explosivos.

La carretera donde ocurrió el tiroteo fue cerrada al tránsito de vehículos.

A la par del enfrentamiento se realizaron varios bloqueos con vehículos incendiados en la carretera Mascota-Vallarta.

Uno de los automotores fue localizado en el kilómetro 47, mientras que otro fue encontrado en el kilómetro 100; en los bloqueos nadie resultó lesionado.

Tras los enfrentamientos se activo código rojo en el estado.

Con información de Milenio.

Who: Mexican Drug Cartel/Gang — Suspected Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación [CJNG]).

What: Armed commandos, assumed to be cartel sicarios from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel/Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación  (CJNG), ambushed a Jalisco state police convoy on a winding mountain road in the western state of Jalisco. Automatic weapons (machine guns) and grenade launchers are believed to be among the weapons used. Casualties include 15 police officers killed, 5 police officers injured, and an unknown number of gang casualties. The police were personnel from the Unitary Force (Fuerza Única Regional de Jalisco) Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) de Jalisco (Jalisco State Prosecutor).

When: Monday afternoon, approximately 1450 hours, 6 April 2015.

Where:  Soyatan, Municipality of Sebastian del Oeste, Jalisco State (Western Mexico), rural highway between Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta (Carretera Mascota-Vallarta).

Policía Federal, México Booking Photo

Heriberto Acevedo Cardenas ‘El Gringo’

[For Public Distribution]

Why: The attack was believed to be conducted in retribution for the death of a local cartel boss (Heriberto Acevedo, aka ‘El Gringo’) who was killed in a 30 March 2015 shootout with police.

A burned out vehicle used to block the road in order to ambush the Mexican police convoy.

Social Media/Internet [No Image Copyright per Zeta News, Tijuana].

Source: “Cruenta balacera en la Costa de Jalisco,” Zeta, 6 April 2015.

For a graphic imagine of the incident scene containing a dead police officer and shot up vehicles (

This appears to be a frame taken from this 1:49 minute news broadcast (

Assault rifle, magazines, and crystal meth seizure by Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) de Jalisco a week after the ambush. Likely linked to CJNG activities.

Fiscalía de Jalisco ‏@FiscaliaJal  Apr 13. [For Public Distribution]

Synopsis: The attack (ambuscade) was a direct assault on a police convoy. The ambush started with a burning vehicle obstructing the path of the convoy. Once the convoy stopped, the cartel sicarios attacked the convoy with heavy gunfire. The attack was characterized as a well planned and executed military-style assault in what appears to be choke-point terrain whereby a kill-zone was established.

Analysis: The CJNG is an emerging narco power. It is allied with the Sinaloa cartel and has served as an enforcer arm for Sinaloa in its battle against the Zetas. The CJNG has a history of mass slayings, and torture, and has been linked with mass graves (narcofosas).  The CJNG is apparently consolidating its own territory and this ambush appears to signal a situation of direct confrontation with the state since the attack was a pre-planned ambuscade rather than a shoot-out on the run.  This ambush follows a 19 March ambush against Gendarmerie elements of the Federal Police (See Tactical Note #24), a 30 March ambush and attempted murder of Jalisco’s state Security Commissioner Alejandro Solorio, and a 6 April murder of Miguel Ángel Caicedo Vargas, the police chief of Zacoalco de Torres in Jalisco.

Significance:  Ambush, Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación; CJNG (Probable), Cartel Tactics, Insurgency, State Police/Fuerza Única


Mark Stevenson, “’Jalisco New Generation’ suspected in Mexico attack on police,” Toronto Star, 7 April 2015;

Jo Tuckman, “Fifteen Mexican police officers killed in deadly ambush in Jalisco state,” The Guardian, 7 April 2015;

Tracey Wilkinson, “Assailants block Mexican police convoy, kill 15 officers in ambush,” Los Angeles Times, 7 April 2015;

“Reportan al menos 15 muertos en carretera Mascota-Las Palmas,” GrupoFórmula, 7 April 2015;

“Deja emboscada 15 policías muertos en Jalisco,”, 7 April 2015;

“Mueren 15 por enfrentamiento entre policías y criminales en el oeste de México,” Univision, 7 April 2015; (includes 1:49 minute video)

“Cruenta balacera en la Costa de Jalisco,” Zeta, 6 April 2015;

See also: Robert J. Bunker, “Mexican Cartel Tactical Note #24: Gendarmerie Ambushed in Ocotlan, Jalisco State by Narco Commando—5 Killed, 8 Wounded,” Small Wars Journal, 20 May 2015;

Categories: El Centro

About the Author(s)

John P. Sullivan was a career police officer. He is an honorably retired lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, specializing in emergency operations, transit policing, counterterrorism, and intelligence. He is currently an Instructor in the Safe Communities Institute (SCI) at the Sol Price School of Public Policy - University of Southern California, Senior El Centro Fellow at Small Wars Journal, and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Global Observatory of Transnational Criminal Networks.  Sullivan received a lifetime achievement award from the National Fusion Center Association in November 2018 for his contributions to the national network of intelligence fusion centers. He is co-editor of Blood and Concrete: 21st Century Conflict in Urban Centers and Megacities (Xlibris, 2019), Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) and Global Biosecurity: Threats and Responses (Routledge, 2010), Studies in Gangs and Cartels (Routledge, 2013), and The Rise of The Narcostate (Mafia States) (Xlibris, 2018), and co-author of Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency: A Small Wars Journal-El Centro Anthology (iUniverse, 2011). He completed the CREATE Executive Program in Counter-Terrorism at the University of Southern California and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the College of William and Mary, a Master of Arts in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research, and a PhD from the Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). His doctoral thesis was “Mexico’s Drug War: Cartels, Gangs, Sovereignty and the Network State.” His current research focus is the impact of transnational organized crime on sovereignty in Mexico and other countries.


Dr. Robert J. Bunker is an Adjunct Research Professor, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College and Adjunct Faculty, Division of Politics and Economics, Claremont Graduate University. He holds university degrees in political science, government, social science, anthropology-geography, behavioral science, and history and has undertaken hundreds of hours of counterterrorism training. Past professional associations include Distinguished Visiting Professor and Minerva Chair at the Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; Futurist in Residence, Training and Development Division, Behavioral Science Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, Quantico, VA; Staff Member (Consultant), Counter-OPFOR Program, National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center-West; and Adjunct Faculty, National Security Studies M.A. Program and Political Science Department, California State University, San Bernardino, CA. Dr. Bunker has hundreds of publications including Studies in Gangs and Cartels, with John Sullivan (Routledge, 2013),  Red Teams and Counterterrorism Training, with Stephen Sloan (University of Oklahoma, 2011), and edited works, including Global Criminal and Sovereign Free Economies and the Demise of the Western Democracies: Dark Renaissance (Routledge, 2014), co-edited with Pamela Ligouri Bunker; Criminal Insurgencies in Mexico and the Americas: The Gangs and Cartels Wage War (Routledge, 2012); Narcos Over the Border: Gangs, Cartels and Mercenaries (Routledge, 2011); Criminal-States and Criminal-Soldiers (Routledge, 2008); Networks, Terrorism and Global Insurgency (Routledge, 2005); and Non-State Threats and Future Wars (Routledge, 2002).