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El Monte school board member slain in Mexico

December 31, 2009 | 11:08 pm
 
Bobbysalcedo A 33-year-old El Monte school board member and five other men were shot dead execution-style in north central Mexico on Wednesday night, after they were abducted by gunmen, according to family members.

Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo was having dinner with his wife in a restaurant when armed men burst in and kidnapped Salcedo and five other men. All six were found dead Thursday, El Monte officials said. Salcedo’s wife was not abducted.

Salcedo, who was also the assistant principal of instruction at El Monte High School, had arrived in the Mexican city of Gomez Palacio earlier this week. The city of 240,000 is in the state of Durango and is the hometown of Salcedo’s wife, Betzy.

Salcedo, who was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and his wife were dining with some of her former classmates when the attack occurred, said Salcedo’s brother, Carlos.

“They ordered everyone to the floor. They threatened to shoot them all if anyone dared to look up. They abducted the men,” Carlos Salcedo said. “Their whereabouts were unknown until the police chief informed my sister-in-law that they found the bodies, my brother included. They were found early this morning about 3 a.m.”

The bodies were discovered alongside a canal, local media reported. All had been shot in the head, and dozens of spent bullet casings were found at the site, suggesting they had been slain on the spot, local media said.

Carlos Salcedo said he did not know the identities of the other men.

Friends and family were in shock Thursday. They said there was no reason for the couple to be targeted. Salcedo’s wife told family members that she did not recognize any of the gunmen’s voices.

“From all accounts right now, it sounds random,” Carlos Salcedo said. “There is no reason for my brother to be targeted.”

Raging drug violence and rampant corruption have been a major problem in Durango, a tense, rough state. The local Catholic archbishop, Hector Gonzalez Martinez, recently described the region to The Times as one where gunmen “own the night” in village after village, even threatening priests.

The couple had been married two years, and Betzy Salcedo was a physician in Mexico. She has been preparing for examinations to practice in the United States.

Carlos Salcedo said his brother’s wife was devastated.

“She’s extremely brokenhearted. It’s a nightmare. I can’t believe it’s happening,” he said. “My brother had just such a bright future. He was finishing up his doctorate at UCLA — just the type of person you want in your community as a leader.”

In November, Salcedo was reelected to a new term on the school board of the El Monte City School District, which governs the city’s elementary schools. A photo on the school district’s website shows his brother, Carlos, swearing him in.

Salcedo was born to a family of Mexican immigrants who arrived in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s. His father was a construction worker and his mother a homemaker. The parents had only an elementary school education, Carlos Salcedo said, but they pushed their five children to succeed educationally, and all went to college.

Salcedo wanted to give back to his community by becoming an educator, his brother said.
Salcedo was student body president when he attended Mountain View High School in El Monte in the early 1990s and graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in history, later earning a master’s in educational administration at Cal State San Bernardino. He had been completing work on a doctorate in educational leadership at UCLA.

Before becoming a school administrator, he taught world history, government and economics. He inspired some of his former students to become teachers themselves, and some now work in El Monte, his brother said.

El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero, a friend of Salcedo’s, described him as devoted to education and leadership, and said he volunteered at book giveaways and food drives.

“Bobby was an absolute bright, shining star in our community,” Quintero said.

Gomez Palacio was a familiar city to Salcedo. He and his wife married there about 2 1/2 years ago, and Salcedo was a past president of the South El Monte/Gomez Palacio sister city organization.

Quintero said he hoped authorities would do whatever possible to catch the suspects.

“They didn’t just take his life. They robbed him from our community.... We have to get justice,” Quintero said.

According to a Times’ interactive map, there were at least 669 drug-related killings in Durango between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 29 of last year, the most recent information available from the University of San Diego Trans Border Institute’s analysis of data from the Agencia Reforma newspaper group. Overall in Mexico, more than 9,900 drug-related killings occurred during that period.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Agustin Roberto “Bobby” Salcedo. Credit: Courtesy of the Salcedo family.

Related: Mexico Under Siege

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