Gunmen wounded Mexico City’s chief of police on Friday, and killed two of his bodyguards and a bystander, in a brazen ambush on his vehicle as it traveled through a wealthy neighborhood that is home to ambassadors and business leaders.
The police chief, Omar García Harfuch, tweeted hours after the shooting that the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel was to blame. Mr. García Harfuch, who said he had been shot three times, was recovering in a Mexico City hospital. A dozen people were arrested following the shooting.
The dawn attack further punctured Mexico City’s image within the country as an oasis largely shielded from the gruesome violence that has gripped other parts of Mexico.
If investigators can prove a cartel staged Friday’s attack as an assassination attempt, it would signal a new front in the battle between security forces and organized crime. It would also offer further evidence of the government’s inability to curb the criminal groups that wield vast influence over large swaths of Mexico, security experts said.
“This is a dramatic breach of what would be considered one of the most guarded, safest zones of the city,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on organized crime at the Brookings Institution. “It’s a massive tactical lapse to allow a government official of this importance to end up with three bullets in him.”
Mexico City has become more dangerous over the past decade, with a rise in murders, kidnappings and extortion. But while gangs in the city have gained strength, they are much less powerful than the cartels that control the drug trade and operate largely outside the capital.
“If the group involved is in fact the Jalisco cartel, it is a sign that they are willing to enter into a direct confrontation with the state,” said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst in Mexico City, who noted that this would be the first assassination attempt against such a high-ranking security official in Mexico City.
Since taking the helm of the city’s police force last year, Mr. García Harfuch has led a more aggressive crackdown on organized crime and has examined collusion between law enforcement officers and criminal groups.
Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, said at a news conference that the government was on “alert,” monitoring the rise in violence and enlisting the national guard to support the local police force. The mayor said she has not received any death threats.
Mexico’s security minister, Alfonso Durazo Montaño, told reporters that three other government officials did face threats, though he would not offer details. He said there was no immediate indication that the attackers had inside knowledge of Mr. García Harfuch’s travel route on Friday.
This is the second high-profile attack on a public official in Mexico this month. Last week, Uriel Villegas Ortiz, a federal judge, was shot to death at his home in the state of Colima. His wife, Verónica Barajas, also died in the attack.
Mr. Durazo Montaño confirmed on Friday that “a preliminary hypothesis” suggests that the New Generation Jalisco Cartel was involved in the shooting of the judge and his wife.