MONTERREY, Mexico - For weeks, no one applied for the Nuevo Laredo police chief job. Many saw it as a death sentence.
But Alejandro Dominguez proudly took office on Wednesday, saying he wasn't afraid of anything. Nine hours later, he was ambushed and killed by gunmen who fired three dozen times.
Dominguez's violent death was the latest blow to Nuevo Laredo, a city across from Laredo, Texas, that has been crippled by a wave of drug violence. The city is on the front line of a turf battle between Mexico's two largest drug gangs, the Gulf and Juarez cartels. Since January, more than 60 people have been killed there, including several city police officers.
President Vicente Fox's administration sent in 700 soldiers and federal agents in March to try to restore law and order.
Dominguez, a businessman who once worked at the federal attorney general's office, was sworn in Wednesday afternoon, and promised to weed out corruption in the city.
"I don't owe anybody anything. My duty is to the citizenry," he said. "I think those who should be afraid are those who have been compromised."
After dark, a group of assailants opened fire as he climbed into his Ford Lobo outside the city's business chamber, which he led.
State police director Fernando Vallejo said officials had recovered 35 to 40 casings from assault rifles similar to those used by drug gangs.
A witness told authorities Dominguez was targeted by a group of men who arrived in three dark Chevy Suburban SUVs.
"They cut him off so he couldn't go," said the witness, who asked not to be identified. "They shot him from inside (the vehicles) and then got out to shoot him some more."
The witness said that once Dominguez was dead, the gunmen climbed back into the Suburbans and drove slowly away, with their lights turned off.
Last month, Nuevo Laredo Mayor Daniel Pena said no one had come forward to replace Police Chief Jose Valdes, who left the post to become City Council secretary. Dominguez was selected from a group of three potential candidates. He was the only one to voluntarily seek the job.
Authorities say drug violence in Nuevo Laredo intensified after the 2003 arrest of Osiel Cardenas, the alleged leader of the Gulf cartel, in the nearby city of Matamoros. They say accused drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been fighting Cardenas to gain access to drug smuggling routes in Nuevo Laredo and other border cities.
The U.S. government has issued a warning to tourists traveling to the border, at the request of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza. Garza has come under fire from Mexican officials who say the warning is unnecessary.