The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has determined that recent threats by associates of the Avechuco family in Sierra Vista are credible. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office has instituted measures to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers including Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and his son Sierra Vista Officer Justin Dannels.
The threats of revenge against the Sheriff, his chief deputy Thad Smith, his son, and law enforcement in general have been received through word of mouth and telephonically for the death of Lauro Jesus Avechuco, a felon with an extensive criminal history. Lauro Avechuco was killed by the younger Dannels, when he allegedly attempted to run Dannels down with his vehicle after a traffic stop on April 13.
The Sierra Vista Herald reported on April 14, that after Avechuco stopped his vehicle momentarily, the vehicle sped up and drove into the Golden Acres neighborhood. According to police, Avechuco then drove toward Dannels “who opened fire with his department-issued sidearm, striking and killing Avechuco,” according to the Herald.
According to Cochise County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Carol Capas, Lauro Avechuco had an extensive criminal history dating back to at least 2002 including arrests for assault, and dealing drugs. Avechuco pleaded guilty in January 2014 to driving on a suspended license. It was the third time he was charged with the same crime.
Capas said each threat is assessed and measures are instituted on a case by case basis. For security reason, Capas could not reveal what measures have been put in place in this case. She did say that the Department is working closely with other law enforcement agencies in the area.
Capas said the threats appear to be coming from multiple sources in the United States and Mexico.
Avechuco’s brother, alleged to be the primary source of the threats, and the large Avechuco family is rumored to have close ties with the Sinaloa drug cartel.
A popular Arizona website, Seeingredarizona.com reported earlier this week, “Sylvia Longmire, a Breitbart News border security expert and contributing editor, lives in southern Arizona. She is quoted as saying, “The region immediately south of Sierra Vista and Naco is predominantly controlled by the Sinaloa cartel. If credible threats are coming from that region, it is either from the Sinaloa directly, or from a criminal enterprise under the umbrella of the cartel.”
The rural communities in Southern Arizona are spread out across a vast border region, but word travels fast. The lines of communication, according to one area resident, were burning up with the news of Avechuco’s death and the resulting threats. Tensions are especially high in the area as the cartels have become more aggressive and very bold in their trafficking activities.
The news of the threats has prompted expressions of concern and words of encouragement from the community for the Sheriff, his staff and his family, according to Capas.
Dannels became sheriff after the death of Cochise County legend, Sheriff Larry Dever who died when he lost control of his pickup truck as he was on his way to meet one of his six sons for a hunting trip in the White Horse Lake area.
Dever grew to be a national figure for his calm but strong demeanor during the heated national debate over border security. His friend, rancher Rob Krentz, was killed by what many believe were drug smugglers. At the time of Krentz’s death, Dever became a symbol of border area law enforcement officers and their nearly impossible jobs due to the federal government’s failure to secure the border.
While his appointment to the position by the Board of Supervisors caused some consternation initially, Dannels has been working to gain confidence with community members and members of the Department.
In accordance with Sierra Vista Police Department policy, Justin Dannels has been placed on administrative leave until a joint investigation by Sierra Vista police, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI is completed and reviewed by the Cochise County Attorney’s Office, according to the Sierra Vista Herald.