Mexican beauty queen killed in shootout between soldiers and drug traffickers

Mexican beauty queen killed in shootout

A 20-year-old state beauty queen died in a gun battle between soldiers and the alleged gang of drug traffickers she was traveling with in a scene befitting the hit movie "Miss Bala,'' or "Miss Bullet,'' about Mexico's not uncommon ties between narcos and beautiful pageant contestants.

The body of Maria Susana Flores Gamez was found Saturday lying near an assault rifle on a rural road in a mountainous area of the drug-plagued state of Sinaloa, the chief state prosecutor said Monday. It was unclear if she had used the weapon.

"She was with the gang of criminals, but we cannot say whether she participated in the shootout,'' state prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera said. "That's what we're going to have to investigate.''

The slender, 5-foot-7-inch brunette was voted the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in a beauty pageant in February. In June, the model competed with other seven contestants for the more prestigious state beauty contest, Our Beauty Sinaloa, but didn't win. The Our Beauty state winners compete for the Miss Mexico title, whose holder represents the country in the international Miss Universe.

Higuera said Flores Gamez was traveling in one of the vehicles that engaged soldiers in an hours-long chase and running gun battle on Saturday near her native city of Guamuchil in the state of Sinaloa, home to Mexico's most powerful drug cartel. Higuera said two other members of the drug gang were killed and four were detained.

The shootout began when the gunmen opened fire on a Mexican army patrol. Soldiers gave chase and cornered the gang at a safe house in the town of Mocorito. The other men escaped, and the gunbattle continued along a nearby roadway, where the gang's vehicles were eventually stopped. Six vehicles, drugs and weapons were seized following the confrontation.

It was at least the third instance in which a beauty queen or pageant contestants have been linked to Mexico's violent drug gangs, a theme so common it was the subject of a critically acclaimed 2011 movie.

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