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Guatemala police operation leads to public shootout

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
  • Police are searching for Mauro Salomon Ramirez
  • He was involved in a shootout at a shopping center with police
  • One police officer and one civilian were killed

(CNN) -- Guatemalan police on Thursday were searching for a drug trafficker who initiated a shootout with police at a shopping mall the day before.

Authorities would not give details on the search for Mauro Salomon Ramirez Barrios, a suspected drug trafficker, interior Ministry Spokesman Nery Morales told CNN.

On Wednesday, police were acting on intelligence of a drug deal to take place at the Tikal Futura shopping center in southern Guatemala City, Morales said. Such transactions at malls are common, and police decided to mount an operation to snag Ramirez.

When police entered the building to apprehend him, shooting broke out, Morales said.

One police officer and one civilian were killed, he said. And Ramirez got away.

"He escaped us, but it was an important operation," Morales said. "It shows that we are aware of these things."

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Four men believed to be associated with Ramirez were captured at the scene, along with two women who were identified as his wife and daughter, he said.

Video from the scene showed police crouching behind obstacles inside the mall and shoppers ducking and running out of the area, some with children in their hands. Dozens of shoppers gathered outside in the parking lot by fire trucks, the footage showed.

Ramirez was described as a mid-level trafficker, but according to some reports, is wanted in the United States.