Female Police Chief Murdered in Mexico

Hermila Garcia, who refused to carry a gun, was shot on her way to work.

October 21, 2010, 6:39 AM

Dec. 3, 2010 — -- The newly appointed female police chief of the northern Mexican town of Meoqui was shot and killed on her way to work by a convoy of gunmen who reportedly worked for drug traffickers, authorities said.

Hermila Garcia Quinones, 38, was sworn in on Oct. 9 as chief of the 90-person police force. Despite the growing drug-related violence in the region, "La Jefa," as Garcia Quinones was known, refused to have bodyguards or carry a weapon.

"If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything," she was fond of saying when asked why she didn't have security. She was killed Nov. 29, another death in what has become a bloodbath in Mexico tied to drug traffickers, whose wares supply users in the U.S.

"This is an area where Los Zetas operate in. Los Zetas are the meanest, most sadistic, most psychotic criminal organization in Mexico," said George W. Grayson, a crime expert and professor at William and Mary College. "I don't know that they did it. But they don't have any regard for gender, age, profession. They enjoy killing. They have raised the bar of brutality."

Meoqui, which borders Texas, was not always a dangerous region. But in recent months it has started to see some of the drug-related violence which has claimed almost 30,000 lives in Mexico since 2006. In the last year, there have been 40 drug-related deaths in the town.

When men refused to take the police chief position in Meoqui, Garcia Quinones stepped forward.

But Garcia Quinones was not the only woman who has stepped up to the plate in Mexico. Marisol Valles Garcia, called "the bravest woman in Mexico," was sworn in last month as the head of a new program of crime prevention in a farming town located in one of the bloodiest regions in Mexico. Since her predecessor's head was left outside the police station over a year ago, no one wanted to fill the vacancy. Valles Garcia, a 20-year-old criminology student and mother of one, took the position.

"I'm doing this for my people," she said then. "This is not for me. I'm tired of all the drug violence."

ABC News tried to talk to Valles Garcia about how the job is going, but was unable to. A person who answered the phone said her presence in the office is unpredictable, for obvious reasons.

The downward spiral of drug violence in Mexico has touched nearly every community.

"[Drug-related violence] could deter leaders from taking government positions, a very pernicious development," said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. "We have seen more than 20 mayors in Mexico killed over the past three years."

The list of the dead has also included government officials, journalists, and community leaders. It's part of a "very systematic strategy on the part of the drug trafficking organizations to undermine and intimidate government officials and to threaten the community's organizational capacity and sever links between the government and the community," Felbab-Brown said.

The government had been saying that it has sharply reduced violence in the state where Garcia Quinones was killed, Grayson said. "I'm just hypothesizing that Los Zetas killed her so that they could prove that they could kill anyone at anytime at any place. I deplore her killing, but I think she should certainly have had bodyguards with her."

Cartels in many drug-plagued parts of Mexico have killed or threatened police chiefs and their departments, buying off some officers and causing others to quit. Nationwide, 30,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels. Recently, the assistant mayor of nearby El Porvenir and the mayor of Distrito Bravos were killed.

Enjoli Francis, ABC News' Austin, Texas, affiliate KVUE and The Associated Press contributed to this article.