Rocky Point Shootout Killed a Cartel Boss, Mexican Officials Say -- But His Body's Missing

Gonzalo Inzunza Inzunza, a top lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel, was among six people killed in an hours-long shootout on Sandy Beach in Rocky Point this week, Mexican officials say.

But Mexican authorities reportedly are confirming this based on samples of DNA from the bloody crime scene -- the body of "El Macho Prieto" apparently was spirited off by other gunmen and hasn't been found.

So much for the idea that the Mexican military had things under control down there.

See also: - Fear Is Killing Tourism in Rocky Point, Mexico, Though Tourists Are Relatively Safe There -- For Now

- State Department Reminder: Traveling to Mexico Can Be Scary

The intense gunfight between the military and gunmen began well before dawn on Wednesday near one of the condo towers on Sandy Beach, a popular hangout for American tourists that's about 200 miles south of Phoenix.

Witnesses reported seeing a helicopter firing machine-gun rounds with tracers into a condo. An American tourist was carjacked in the chaos that reportedly left six dead.

An initial article about the shootout in yesterday's Arizona Republic quotes an American expatriate praising the operation:

"The military did their grandest work protecting us and keeping us safe," said Susie Flinn, a real estate agent and resident of nearby Cholla Bay.

If that was their grandest work, no wonder the cartels have such a grip on the country. After taking hours to bring down a few guys, the military reportedly let the body of El Macho Prieto slip through its fingers. The cartel boss has a long history, it seems, and had a $230,000 bounty on his head.

Having been to Rocky Point many times, we can't understand how any gunmen could escape -- there are only a couple of roads out of town. Rocky Point may be relatively close by, but it's a world apart in terms of how it deals with criminals. When the Boston Marathon bombing suspects were located by police in April, almost the entire Boston area went into lockdown mode, and police even conducted intrusive door-to-door searches.

State and local Mexican authorities supposedly didn't have a clue about the operation beforehand -- sounds like they weren't trusted by the military.

Just another day in Mexico, it seems. But the touristy location is giving Arizonans another reason to re-evaluate their travel plans. Still, as far as we can tell, the situation isn't that much different than when New Times published "Fear Is Killing Tourism in Rocky Point, Mexico, Though Tourists Are Relatively Safe There -- For Now," our March 10, 2011, cover story.

That is, odds are good that you can hit the beach and other attractions in Rocky Point, have a great time, and come back safe -- as long as you're not a Mexican associated with a cartel or anybody else who's in the way when things go bad. The latter problem pretty much is the case in Phoenix.

You might want to keep in mind the words of wisdom from a U.S. Consulate General bulletin issued on Wednesday:

"In the event of gunfire, take shelter immediately and stay clear of doors and windows. Additionally, you should review your personal security plans; remain aware of your surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security."

Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.