Maria Susana Flores Gamez: Mexican beauty queen killed during shootout in military
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A young Mexican beauty queen has been killed during a shootout with the military and was found dead next to an assault rifle.
Authorities say Maria Susana Flores Gamez, 20, was riding in a caravan of drug traffickers who opened fire on Mexican soldiers in the state of Sinaloa on Saturday.
Five people died in the running gun battle between Mexican soldiers and a group of armed men said to be members of Orso Iván Gastélum, hit men for the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Accomplished: Miss Flores was voted '2012 Woman of Sinaloa' in February and represented her nation in China for the Miss Oriental Tourism International contest
The dead were Miss Flores and her boyfriend, two soldiers and a civilian.
The Mexican newspaper La Presnsa reports that Miss Flores' family denies she was in league with the gunmen.
They say she was on the way to work and was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Her body has been handed over to her parents for burial.
Shootout: After a running gun battle with the hit men, soldiers tracked the cartel members to a safe house, where captured another shootout
Honored: Miss Flores is seen here being crowned 'Miss Sinaoloa' earlier this year
Prosecutor Marco Antonio Higuera said on Monday that Miss Flores was traveling in one of the vehicles that engaged soldiers in an hours-long chase and shootout.
According to reports, the shootout either began as an ambush or after the gunmen carjacked and murdered a man on the streets of El Palmar Leal, in the municipality of Mocorito.
The shootout led police to a nearby safe house.
A video posted to YouTube on Monday reportedly shows Mexican soldiers exchanging automatic weapons fire with the drug traffickers inside.
'Innocent': Miss Flores' family says she was simply a bystander on the way to work when she was caught in the crossfire and killed. They claim she was not involved with the cartel
Violent region: The gunbattle took place in a village in the drug-plagued western Mexican state of Sinaloa
Three men were arrested at the house and several heavy weapons were seized, including seven AK-47 assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and a 40mm grenade launcher with grenades.
Six trucks and an armored car were also found there.
She was voted the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in a beauty pageant in February.
In May, she represented Mexico at Miss Oriental Tourism International in China.
In 2008, another Mexican beauty queen was detained on suspicion of drug and weapons violations but was later released.