NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press
SOUTHLAKE, Texas (AP) — Three men used video cameras and a GPS device to track a Mexican lawyer living in a wealthy North Texas suburb before he was gunned down in a shopping center parking lot, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa was shot dead in May 2013 in Southlake, about 25 miles northwest of Dallas, as he was placing shopping bags in his SUV.
Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Cepeda, Jesus Gerardo Ledezma-Campano and Jose Luis Cepeda-Cortes were all arrested Friday and charged with interstate stalking. The men are not charged with murder or any other crimes beyond stalking, though authorities said they are pursuing more arrests and charges.
Authorities refused to confirm any ties between Chapa and the three defendants to Mexican drug cartels that have carried out criminal schemes and numerous acts of violence in Texas and elsewhere in the United States.
But they say Chapa was a clear target of organized crime. Authorities allege the three men had advanced knowledge of monitoring devices and collected videos, photos and personal information about Chapa and his family.
“They were very sophisticated,” said Diego Rodriguez, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas office.
Weeks before Chapa’s death, a federal complaint alleges, Cepeda-Cortes arranged to rent a one-bedroom apartment in nearby Grapevine. Shortly afterward, Ledezma-Cepeda and Ledezma-Campano began to receive emails and picture messages from a camera set up in Chapa’s neighborhood.
The camera captured a photo of Chapa’s SUV along with other vehicles, the complaint alleged. Authorities declined to say where the camera was placed but said it was close to Chapa’s home.
The three men are also accused of using GPS trackers to follow Chapa, including one device attached to his SUV.
On May 22, 2013, the tracker on Chapa’s SUV showed him headed to Southlake Town Square, an upscale outdoor shopping center. As Chapa and his wife walked back from a shoe store, a Toyota Sequoia was seen on surveillance footage pulling up behind Chapa’s vehicle.
The camera only showed a person getting out of the Sequoia. It drove away six seconds later, with Chapa shot dead. The Sequoia was later found abandoned.
Attorney information for the men was not immediately available.
Southlake Police Chief Stephen Mylett said Chapa had lived in town for two to three years, but declined to say whether he continued to work as a lawyer or how he supported himself otherwise.
One shopper walking through Southlake Town Square on Tuesday said she was confident the area remained safe.
“It doesn’t make me fearful,” said Carol Ray, who was watching her 3-year-old grandson play near a pond. “My thinking on that type of thing: You keep your nose clean, those type of individuals have nothing to do with you.”