Mexican beauty queen Maria Susana Flores Gamez was found dead on Saturday in Sinaloa. Authorities believe she was the victim of a shootout between military troops and drug traffickers.
According to reports, Gamez's body was found next to an assault rifle, though it is unclear whether she was the one to use the weapon. She was traveling with alleged drug traffickers, and two other members of the same gang were killed. Four were taken into custody.
Authorities took six vehicles, along with a significant amount of drugs and weapons into custody after the incident. ABC News reported that this shootout is "at least the third instance in which a beauty queen or pageant contestant" has been associated with the drug gangs that run Mexico.
In 2008, the reigning Our Lady Sinaloa was arrested after traveling with a cartel carrying a significant amount of arms and $50,000 in cash. Laura Zuniga was arrested but later released.
"We are dismayed by the news – a beautiful young person, happy and with a big future ahead of her," pageant organizers told CNN. "Rest in peace Susy."
Gamez was only 20 years old when she died and gained fame after she was voted the 2012 Woman of Sinaloa in February. She competed in another pageant, Our Beauty Sinaloa, but did not take the title. Police are working to determine how she became involved with the drug cartel.
"All we know is that it [her death] happened during a confrontation that the army had with criminals, and that she was with the group of criminals," Sinaloa State Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera said in a statement.
The news of Gamez's death comes just after the announcement that former Mexican Mayor Maria Santos Gorrostieta was found tortured and dead by the roadside. The former mayor had fought hard against Mexican cartels and survived two assassination attempts that took the life of her husband.
Mexico has had a hard time combating the growing drug cartel's power throughout the country. The balance of power seems to swing between the military and the cartel with each encounter between the two groups.