Gov. Doug Ducey is urging Arizonans to heed advisories about travel into Mexico even as he heads off to a conference in Hermosillo.
The governor’s comments come on the heels of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office reporting what sounded like automatic gunfire in Agua Prieta, just south of Douglas.
The governor also made the remarks before news broke of a brutal attack that killed 10 members of a Mormon family in what the Arizona Republic is reporting to be a potential case of mistaken identity by drug cartel gunmen.
“Please join me in praying for these Americans – those we’ve lost, those still missing and for the families and loved ones who are grieving,” Ducey said on Twitter this morning.
There exists a longer-term advisory from the U.S. State Department about travel into Sonora, the state that borders directly with Arizona. It specifically urges people to “reconsider travel due to crime.’’
That is not as severe an alert as the “do not travel’’ advisory the State Department has issued for some other Mexican states. But it is higher than the agency’s more general advisory for elsewhere in Mexico where travelers are urged to “exercise increased caution.’’
“I want people to heed to advisories,’’ Ducey told Capitol Media Services.
The governor himself is scheduled to appear Wednesday at the biannual meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, along with Sonora counterpart Claudia Pavlovich. And Ducey, who does have the benefit of a security detail and a state-owned airplane, said he does not intend to change his plans.
“I am going to conduct my duty as governor,’’ he said. “But I want to make sure our citizens are safe.’’
The report from Cochise County said that about 3 a.m. on Monday local law enforcement agencies started getting calls about gunfire south of the border between Douglas and Agua Prieta.
“Initial reports indicate several rounds sounded like automatic gunfire. However, there are no reports of violence spillover into the United States,’’ the report states.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said his office is increasing patrols out “an abundance of caution.’’
“We are acting on a heightened state of alert being proactive in the event that activity south of the border crosses into our jurisdiction,’’ he said in a prepared statement. “Our highest priority is the safety of our citizens and we will take active measures to ensure that safety.’’
The Douglas Police Department issued its own advisory saying “residents are cautioned to avoid unnecessary travel into Mexico at this time.’’
The issues with travel in Sonora are more long term, with the latest State Department advisory issued April 9.
On one hand, the advisory says Sonora is “a key location used by the international drug trade and human trafficking networks.’’
But it also says that the northern part of the state – the areas north of Hermosillo – generally experiences much lower levels of crime than cities close to Sinaloa, to the south of Sonora, and other parts of Mexico.
There are, however, some apparent exceptions to that.
The advisory specifically bars government employees from traveling in the triangular area that runs from Sonoyta on the west – the crossing point into Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point – down to Altar and then northeast to the Mariposa border crossing at the west edge of Nogales.
It also says that U.S. government employees may travel between the Nogales border crossing to and from Hermosillo during the day only, and may stop at the towns of Santa Ana and Imuris and at restaurants and restrooms located along the highway.
Asked for his advice for Arizonans traveling to Mexico, Ducey said people should pay attention to “whatever advisories are out there.’’
“The safety and security of the citizens of Arizona is my top priority,’’ he said.
As to whether it’s unsafe to go, the governor said it would depend “what the advisory is and what part’’ of Mexico was the destination.
Meanwhile, the Republic this morning reported that three mothers and their young children – American citizens who are members of a decades-old settlement in Sonora state founded as part of an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – were killed in a shooting attack. The settlement is located about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona.
The Republic said the family members were driving from Bavispe to a wedding in LaBaron when gunmen attacked their three vehicles. The Republic also cited a relative as saying a sister-in-law, nine children and a cousin with a baby traveling were kidnapped.