Julian Leyzaola was born on 27 February 1960, in Culiacan, Sinaloa. Both his father and his grandfather held high military ranks. At age 16, Leyzaola joined the army as an infantryman and later held various positions with the police in Mexico. In December 2007 he was appointed director of the Tijuana Municipal Police; the following year he worked as Secretary of Public Security of the same municipality. Currently, he is chief of police in Ciudad Juarez.
On 26 March 2011, at approximately 7 in the evening, four civilians – Juan Carlos Chavira (28 years old), Dante Castillo (25 years old), Raul Navarro (29 years old) and Felix Vizcarra (22 years old) – were traveling in a pickup truck when they were detained by municipal police (in front of several witnesses) in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The uniformed officers detained the men and took them to an unknown destination.
On 27 March, relatives of the victims found the truck abandoned in a tunnel, several miles from where they had been arrested. The vehicle registration plate had been removed and the keys were left inside the truck. The same day, family members of the missing men went to the offices of the municipal police, federal police, as well as to state and federal prosecutors to ask as to the whereabouts of the men. All denied having the civilians in their custody. On 28 March, the mother of one of the victims filed a missing persons report. .
The witnesses provided the State Human Rights Commission with the numbers of the police units that allegedly detained the civilians, after the investigation concluded that two of the units allegedly involved were Julian Leyzaola’s bodyguards.
On 9 April 2011, Eugenio De los Santos Decuesta, Francisco Javier Campoy Dominguez and Leonardo Ivan Loya Hernandez, municipal police officers and Leyzaola’s bodyguards, were detained for their alleged participation in the disappearances of the four civilians. On 13 April, the bodies of the civilians were found dumped in a ditch on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez.
This is not the first time that Julian Leyzaola was involved in human rights violations; he was accused of using torture, which was allegedly carried out in 2009 and 2010, when he served as Secretary of Public Safety in Tijuana, Baja California. Leyzaola presumably participated in the torture of individuals who were arbitrarily arrested, transported to military bases, and subjected to beatings, electric shocks, death threats and choking in order to obtain false confessions.
Miguel Angel Messina, testified that he was arrested by Leyzaola’s bodyguards and transferred to a military base where he was severely tortured. Like several of his colleagues, Messina identified Leyzaola as a direct participant in the severe beatings, which were inflicted in order to make Messina and others arrested like him, sign a prepared statement.
Authorities in Baja California are still collecting evidence regarding the torture accusations against Leyzaola.