CUERNAVACA, Mexico — In cargo pants and a T-shirt, the skinny, American-born 14-year-old looked as if he should be in middle school. Instead, he was surrounded by three armed Mexican soldiers in ski masks and camouflage as he told reporters that he helped a Mexican drug gang behead four people.
Mexican officials say they arrested the youth known as El Ponchis late Thursday at an airport south of Mexico City with a 19-year-old sister who is accused of helping him dump the bodies. Authorities said he was caught with two cell phones that held photographs of tortured victims.
Many youths have been used by drug cartels in their bloody battles against the government and each other, but the story of El Ponchis may be the most shocking. A YouTube video that emerged a month ago sparked talk of a child hit man — said by some to be as young as 12.
"I participated in four executions, but I did it drugged and under threat that if I didn't, they would kill me," the boy said calmly when he was handed over to the federal prosecutor Friday morning, showing no remorse.
"I've killed four people by chopping off their heads," the boy reportedly said after his capture.
Authorities identified the boy as Edgar Jimenez Lugo.
He told reporters Friday that he was kidnapped at age 11 and forced to work for the Cartel of the South Pacific, a branch of the splintered Beltran Leyva gang.
Authorities said the siblings were detained at an airport near Cuernavaca in Morelos state.
His age poses a legal dilemma for Mexican authorities, who on Friday were scrambling to figure out which laws and agencies would handle a minor suspected of such egregious crimes.
Morelos Gov. Marco Adame Castillo said the boy was born in San Diego, and Mexican officials were researching whether he has dual nationality. A U.S. Embassy official said U.S. officials had not yet confirmed his citizenship.
The two allegedly worked for Julio "El Negro" Padilla, who has been fighting for control of the drug trade in Morelos, formerly part of the territory of the Beltran Leyva gang, which broke up when leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed by Mexican marines a year ago. El Ponchis' sister said she is Padilla's girlfriend.
Information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.