Omar García Harfuch Ambush – Some Quick Observations

During my 45 years and for the past 18 years, Joe Autera, and I have conducted forensic analysis on countless vehicle attacks. As we have in the past, Joe and I are currently analyzing the Omar García Harfuch Ambush.

ISDA Members Mark Caldwell and Gerardo Corona have contributed invaluable data and metrics to ensure the accuracy of the upcoming Forensic Analysis.

In the past, we have used forensic science and engineering principles to determine the cause of a vehicle ambush. The analysis is based on a rigorous, disciplined approach to identify the problem that causes the event. We test all scenarios for accuracy. We measure maximum speed, the path the vehicle takes, vehicle performance, sight distance, and come up with the cause of the event followed by lessons learned.

An example of past analysis.

As we post this, Joe Autera and the VDI team are recreating the scenario using one of their armored B6 Suburbans. The analysis may take some time – in the interim we offer this quick outline of the attack followed by comments and opinions covering surveillance detection, armored vehicles, the driver, attack site and offer some suggestions. 

The Site and the Timeline

On June 26th at 6:35 AM, Mexico City Police Chief Omar García Harfuch was ambushed in his armored Suburban. The ambush occurred at the intersection of Monte Blanco and Av. Paseo de la Reforma. The attackers drove a large truck followed by a Suburban, out of AV. Monte Blanco and blocked the intersection as García Harfuch was driving on towards AV. Monte Blanco. 

From 4:00 AM, four cells of seven attackers each waited for Omar García Harfuch. They were stationed at various locations along the route.

The attack started at 6:35 AM. The attacking team was parked at the ambush site for two and a half hours. 

Three seconds into the attack, the intersection was blocked by a large truck containing 7 to 8 armed gunmen.

Nine to ten seconds into the attack, they started shooting at García Harfuch’s Suburban.

From the time the truck stopped, it took 2 to 2.5 seconds for the shooting to start. 

Forensics indicates that García Harfuch’s Suburban was stopped 20 Meters – 66 Feet away from the blocking truck.

The shooting stopped 6:37:52 AM. The shooting lasted approximately two and a half minutes. 

As a point of interest, at the 6:35:58 AM mark, approximately a minute after they pulled out, you can hear police sirens. Omar García Harfuch’s security team immediately sent a message for help. (opinion – the reaction time is impressive) 

Shortly after the sirens are heard some of the attackers pile into the Suburban and leave the attack site.

The attackers that are in the truck bed leave the truck and flee into the neighborhood. The police were able to apprehend most.

A question – Did the attackers abort the ambush earlier than they wanted to because they heard the sirens and knew that the police were on their way?

Observations and Suggestions

Surveillance Detection

The attack location is the home of many diplomatic missions; therefore, there was a Police Quick Reaction Force (QRF) patrolling the area. 

In the 2 1/2 hours that the attackers parked at the intersection of the attack site, did a QRF vehicle drive by the attack location? If they did drive by, did they notice the truck? 

The Armored Vehicle

The goal of an armored car is to stop the initial blast of fire and have the capability of escaping the killed zone. The vehicle met the first requirement but not the second.

In our opinion, the vehicle did not meet the second requirement NOT due to the vehicle’s capability but rather due to the near-perfect kill zone created by the attackers. 

Omar García Harfuch armored suburban
Attackers shot at the seams and gaps of the armored Suburban.

The attackers fired at the vehicle for two-plus minutes. The principal was injured in the attack as rounds penetrated the vehicle. He also mentioned in a news article that he was cut by shards of glass. 

The attackers also seemed to have known how to penetrate armored glass; they concentrated their fire In small clusters. 

Run-flat tires should be on all armored vehicles, but in this scenario, it did not matter if they had run-flats or not. We’re not saying they shouldn’t have run-flat flats, but in this attack, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

More information concerning ballistics and shot patterns will be available in the upcoming Forensic Report.

The Driver

Research has shown that the “average” driver needs two and a half seconds to react to an emergency.

IF the Suburban was moving at the speed of 65KPH (40 MPH) and the driver’s reaction time was “average” (2.5 seconds), the vehicle would have moved 45 Meters (148 Feet) before there was a reaction (applying the brakes) from the driver.

IF the Suburban was moving at the speed of 50 KPH (31 MPH) and the driver’s reaction time was “average,” the vehicle would have moved 34.75 Meters (114 Feet) before there was a reaction from the driver.

Note – Our Forensic Analysis will produce more precise numbers.

It was a low light scenario (dawn).  The driver would’ve reacted to the vehicle’s headlight. It took 2 to 3 seconds for the truck to block the intersection. It is reasonable to conclude that the driver thought the truck was making a left-hand turn onto Av. Paseo de la Reforma in that time frame.

Our preliminary analysis indicates that the driver of the Suburban reaction time was above average. We will explain the time, distance and recognition points in the upcoming final analysis. 

This has to be said if the driver of the armored suburban was a security driver and if the team was an executive protection team, and the purpose of having the security driver was for the safety and security of the passengers, the driver cannot be average – with all due respect average will get you killed. 

Attack Site

This was an example of the attack team doing their homework. They picked a location where the vehicle could have some reasonable speed, which, in turn, increased their rate into the kill zone.

The attack location was a classic danger zone. The vehicle was moving around a curve that offers limited sight distance. There were trees on the left side of the vehicle. On the vehicle’s right-hand side were some homes and trees that would block the driver’s view of a vehicle entering the intersection. 

Omar García Harfuch Ambush street location
Driver’s eye view approaching the intersection as seen from Google Maps Street View

Preliminary analysis indicates that from the time he could have possibly seen the incident to the time the vehicle was in the kill zone was in the range of 4 to 5 seconds.

Keep in mind that an ambush site’s design is a science all relating to time and distance. The objective of a well-designed ambush is to ensure that the victim cannot get out of the kill zone. 

A significant component of the analysis is the Decision Site Distance (DSD). Where on Av. Paseo de la Reform could the driver have first seen the ambush developing? From that location – How much time and distance did they have to work with?

When applied to the science of driving, the numbers related to all of the above create a vehicle ambush algorithm. 

Suggestions and Comments

Opinion – Surveillance Detection is the most import skill one can acquire and in this case, it was not only the best protection it could have been the only protection

Opinion – García Harfuch’s team was put into a no-win position. I know I’m repetitive, but the only answer to this scenario was a surveillance detection program. 

Suggestion – On all routes traveled, the executive protection secure transportation team needs to do sight distance surveys. If there is a location on the route with decisions and sight distances that offers very little time to react and maneuver the vehicle – that scenario is a danger zone. In a high-risk environment, that area needs to be examined before the principle drives through that area. The intersection of Av. Paseo de la Reforma and Av. Monte Blanco is the poster child for the perfect sight distance ambush.

The higher the threat, the more the need for decision site distance surveys. 

The following is a statement that we’ve been making for approximately 45 years:

Surveillance detection Is not only your best defense – in high-risk environments; it can be your only defense. If there ever was a classic example of this being a truism was the attack on the García Harfuch.

For more reading see Attacks That Have Changed the Way We Work and Train.