MEXICO CITY — The eccentric leader of the brutal La Familia drug cartel was killed in a shootout during two days of fighting between federal police and gunmen that terrified civilians across a western Mexican state, the government said Friday.
The death of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez — nicknamed "The Craziest One" — is a major blow to a drug cartel that rose to national prominence four years ago by rolling severed heads into a nightclub and declaring that its mission was to protect Michoacan state from rival gangs and petty criminals.
Police believed Gonzalez, 40 — also known as "El Chayo" or "The Doctor" — was killed in a clash Thursday between cartel gunmen and federal police, said Alejandro Poire, a government spokesman. The office of President Felipe Calderon confirmed Moreno's death but said his body has not been recovered.
Five officers and three civilians were also killed in the shootouts, which began Wednesday night when La Familia gunmen attacked federal officers in Moreno's home city of Apatzingan.
In February, the United States added Moreno and six other reputed La Familia leaders to its "Kingpin Act" list, which prohibits American citizens and firms from doing business with them and freezes their U.S. assets.
Moreno was also indicted in 2003 by a federal grand jury in Texas on charges that included conspiracy to distribute marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine.