The Cachanillazo, a meetup and adventure ride for UTVs from Ensenada to San Felipe, was ambushed by a band of armed gunmen on Saturday while on the Mexican Federal Highway 1 (Transpeninsular Highway) near San Vicente. Eleven were reportedly killed with nine wounded.
According to Baja California State Attorney General Ricardo Iván Carpio Sánchez, the attack happened on Saturday at 2:15 PM local time. While Cachanillazo drivers were parked at a gas station in San Vicente, multiple gunmen, hooded and dressed in black, drove a silver van to their spot before getting out and opening fire. Ten men and one woman were reported to have died.
Footage of the shooting surfaced on social media, which showed the gunmen moving in and firing. Passerby videos revealed some of the victims were killed while inside or next to their UTVs. Police at the local, state, and federal levels as well as the fire department and Red Cross assisted in managing the scene.
The AG did not immediately confirm the identities of the attackers, though local news reported they were members of a drug cartel while some of the UTV tour’s participants were part of a rival group. Specifically, the attack stemmed from the ongoing conflict between the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) and Tijuana Cartel (Arellano Félix Cartel, or CAF); the CDS is one of the largest drug syndicates in the world, whereas the CAF was regarded as a major power in the underworld in the 2000s before diminishing in strength, though they maintain a presence in Baja California and Tijuana.
“The Cachanillazo family joins in this unfortunate tragedy,” reads a statement from organisers. “Unfortunately, what happened during the tour was not in our hands. We are wholeheartedly sorry for those lost and their families. Our sincere condolences. We are as baffled as all of you since we have nothing to do with what happened.”
San Vicente is located just off the 330th mile for SCORE International‘s Baja 500 set to take place in early June; pre-running for the 500 began on Saturday. While SCORE has not commented on the matter, the buildup to last year’s Baja 400 had been overshadowed by a cartel-led crime wave in the area (prompting the United States Consulate in Tijuana to warn against travelling) before decreasing in time for the race which proceeded without issue, with SCORE still coordinating police and military security to ensure racer safety.