An American citizen, Jean Baptiste Kingery (40), is being held by Mexican authorities for allegedly smuggling grenade parts from the United States to a powerful and dangerous Mexican drug gang based in Sinaloa, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Police arrested him last week as part of a binational investigation. He is alleged to have smuggled through the border town of Mexicali in the Mexican state of Baja California at least one hundred parts for grenades and firearms.
The Illinois native allegedly bought the weapons over the internet and in stores in the U.S. Mexican drug gangs frequently use hand grenades when combating police and soldiers, who are struggling to destroy the drug trade. Kingery’s arrest has been taken as a sign that Mexican gangs are now fabricating their own weapons. The Sinaloa criminal organization is headed by Mexico’s most-wanted criminal: Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, a.k.a. Shorty.
Mexican federales captured Kingery at a house in the Pacific tourist town of Mazatlan in Sinaloa state, where they seized a small cache of guns and found a Hummer sports utility vehicle. The parts smuggled by Kingery allowed Mexican criminals to kill scores of people in bars, nightclubs, and public squares in Mexico. In addition, Mexican police raided five other homes, finding manufacturing facilities for assembling grenades, including gunpowder and grenade triggers, pins and caps. In April 2011, Mexican police in Baja California arrested two men possessing 192 grenade casings in Baja California. They confessed that they were part of an arms smuggling gang. That sting led to the arrest of an American citizen who then led police to Kingery.
Deadly rivalry between drug gangs, and their fights with the Mexican security apparatus, have made northern Mexico an extremely dangerous place to live or visit. The drug cartels use sophisticated communications, automatic weapons, supercharged vehicles, and military equipment to prosecute narco-terrorism. Some border towns are nearly deserted as Mexicans have fled the fighting or forced recruitment by the drug lords to serve as gunmen, couriers and lookouts. Mexican drug gangs advertise their paid positions with pamphlets and billboards, offering special bonuses to those with military experience. Mexico’s war on drugs has claimed more than 42,000 lives since late 2006 when President Felipe Calderon launched a war on traffickers. A grenade attack in the city of Morelia killed eight people during the 2008 Independence Day celebrations, when the fragmentation bombs were tossed at victims celebrating in the crowded main square. On August 14, a grenade tossed onto a busy boulevard in the city of Veracruz killed a father and seriously wounded his wife and two young children.
Kingery is no stranger to U.S. federal authorities. On June 15, 2010, Kingery was detained by U.S. officials at an Arizona border crossing when he was found with more than 100 disassembled grenades hidden in the spare tire of his vehicle. According to a report received by the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Kingery confessed to arming the Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana cartels with hand grenades, teaching cartels how to convert AK-47 and AR-15 rifles into automatic weapons, and to sometimes delivering instructions, including assassination orders, to the cartels. He is also believed to manufactured over 2,000 grenades for the two criminal groups.
But when an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives urgently requested permission to arrest Kingery, it was the U.S. Attorney General’s office in Phoenix that denied the request. The attorney general had decided that the grenade parts smuggled by Kingery amounted to novelty items and that an indictment could be issued later. Nonetheless, Kingery’s current case will be added to the ongoing investigation of Operation Fast and Furious, a controversial ATF operation that targeted gun-trafficking networks on the Mexican border. In that case, a congressional investigation says ATF agents of lost track of about 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns whose purchase they had watched.
Emory Hurley, the U.S. prosecutor who had decided not to pursue the Kingery grenade-parts case or approve his arrest, has now been transferred to civil case work.
Kingery had been shuttling between Arizona and California, as well as Sinaloa, and had been working for the two cartels for at least two years. He once lived in Yuma, Arizona, and San Diego, California. ATF began watching him in 2009 following his purchase of numerous AK-47 assault rifles at a Tucson gun store. He also bought grenade parts from online dealers that same year.
American citizen Jean Baptiste Kingery has also been known by various aliases: Jean Baptiste Kingery Moinssonm, Juan Bautista Misson de Kingery, Kingery Jean Baptiste, Jean Baptiste (JB) Kingery, Jeane Kingsley, Juan Morrisson, Jean Kingeri Salazar, Jean Baptiste Kingery.
The April 13 arrests in Mexicali, Baja California, that finally led to Kingery’s arrest was a significant haul for the Mexican army and state police. The two men arrested at that time have been identified as José Eduardo Granados Rosales o José Eduardo Rosales a.k.a. ‘El Bebo’ and Ozzy Oswaldo Medina López. Found with them were 192 grenades, 8 tactical vests, 33 boxes of weapons parts, weapons manuals, as well as grenade parts. The pair confessed to working for Habib Sayb Mújica and Ricardo Rosales Ramírez a.k.a ‘El Nene’ of the Sinaloa cartel. It was Sayb Mújica, who may be an American citizen, who fingered Kingery.