Death Toll Climbs In Mexico Massacre

Mourners In Juarez i i

Relatives of one of the victims of the shootings mourn on Sunday. Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
Mourners In Juarez

Relatives of one of the victims of the shootings mourn on Sunday.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

The death toll rose to 16 Monday after gunmen opened fire early Sunday morning at a high school party in Juarez, Mexico. More than half of the victims were high-school students. One girl was just 13 years old.

At a news conference, state Attorney General Patricia Gonzales refused to point fingers at the drug cartels. But there is no question that Sunday's massacre was carried out in a style typical of drug gang shootings.

Juarez, which is across the border from El Paso, Texas, is no stranger to mass killings: In the past two years, more than 4,200 people have been killed as Mexico enters into a third year of drug-related mayhem.

The Associated Press quoted Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz as saying that he believed the shooting was random because the victims were "good kids" with no apparent ties to drug gangs.

On Sunday night, family members of one of the victims, 17-year-old Juan Carlos Medrano, waited outside a large, modern hospital that takes up an entire city block. Medrano was inside being operated on for multiple gunshot wounds. His mother was slumped in a plastic chair with a fuzzy blue blanket covering her legs, and a look of defeat on her face. The boy died.

A Neighborhood In Panic

Arturo Chacon, a reporter at the Juarez newspaper El Norte, went to the crime scene. He said the killings took place in three tiny side-by-side homes in a south Juarez neighborhood. Witnesses told authorities that the killers pulled up to the houses in four SUVs and blocked off the street. Then, l5 shooters went into the houses and began killing.

"The neighbors were all around and out in the street just walking, but with these strange faces, like very scared and panicked, still in panic," Chacon says.

The photographs from the crime scene look like something out of a horror film. The concrete floors are awash in wide puddles of blood that soak plastic cups and potato chip bags leftover from the festivities. Bloodstained handprints blot the walls inches away from multiple bullet holes. Chacon said that when he visited the scene on Sunday, the air still smelled of gunpowder.

Crime scene i i

A survivor walks in the house where the murders took place, in the Salvarcar neighborhood in Juarez. Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
Crime scene

A survivor walks in the house where the murders took place, in the Salvarcar neighborhood in Juarez.

Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images

Juarez has seen more than 200 murders since the beginning of this year, despite thousands of federal police and military who have been brought in to patrol the streets.

'No One's Ever Caught ...'

Howard Campbell, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas, El Paso, says the massacre is further evidence that the Mexican government has no control over the violence sweeping the nation.

"And that's why people with impunity are able to come into a party and massacre large numbers of people and disappear," says Campbell. "No one's ever caught, no one's ever punished. And no one ever knows the reason why and what can be done to stop this."

Among those keeping vigil at the hospital, local high-school football coach Fernando Gallego says he has little hope for justice. Two of his players were killed, and three others remain in intensive care.

He says that young people can't go anywhere now to have fun, so they cloister themselves and get together at friends' houses. Even then, though, he says they are targeted.

With no end in sight to the violence, Gallego says all they can do now is pray.

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