A brief stint in custody for Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s son, Ovidio Guzmán Lopez, triggered a raging gun battle on Thursday in Culiacan, in his home state of Sinaloa
Mexico’s security forces say they were forced to release Ovidio and retreat after heavily armed cartel fighters surrounded them and launched a war across the city
A police team on patrol were fired upon authorities from a house, they returned back and were eventually able to enter the house where they found four cartel members inside, including Ovidio Guzman
Following his arrest, Culiacan exploded in violence with armed civilians in trucks roaring through the city on trucks with mounted machine guns
Authorities said they eventually released Ovidio to save the lives of the cops and restore calm in the city
28-year-old Ovidio Guzmán Lopez was indicted in February on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana by the U.S. Dept Of Justice
The brief apprehension of El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán Lopez, 28, triggered a raging gun battle on Thursday in the city that is home to the notorious drug kingpin’s Sinaloa cartel.
Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said 30 members of the National Guard militarized police were patrolling an area in the city, 370 miles northwest of Mexico City, when they were fired on from a house.
Authorities fired back and were eventually able to enter the house where they found four cartel members inside, including Ovidio Guzmán, who is accused of drug trafficking in the U.S.
Heavily armed gunmen quickly surrounded the home in retaliation and an intense, hours-long gunfight broke out as the civilians loyal to the drug lord opened fire on the security forces.
The patrol was eventually overpowered by the cartel gunmen and the decision was taken to set Ovidio Guzmán free from the house and to withdraw to protect the lives of the National Guard and restore calm in the city, Durazo said.
Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda said two had been killed and 21 injured during the raging gunfight.
The true death toll however, is yet to be ascertained with television images showing at least three bodies lying next to cars in the streets.
He said police had come under attack when they approached roadblocks manned by gunmen. He advised residents not to leave their homes.
The chaos was continued to nightfall.
A lawyer for El Chapo’s family, José Luis González Meza, said that Guzmán’s family had told him ‘Ovidio is alive and free’ but that he had no more details about what had happened.
His current whereabouts are unknown.
The gunmen reportedly had blocked entrances to the city with burning vehicles, a common tactic to make it difficult for security forces to maneuver.
Ovidio, along with his brothers, is believed to be influential in the cartel since their father was jailed for life in the United States.
Despite the reaction to his arrest, Ovidio is not one of El Chapo’s best-known sons.
Guzmán’s sons – Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar and his brother Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar, known as ‘los Chapitos’, or ‘the little Chapos’, and are believed to currently run their father’s Sinaloa Cartel together with Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada.
Following the apprehension of Ovidio on Thursday, Culiacan exploded in violence with armed civilians in trucks roaring through the city’s center shooting what appeared to be .50-caliber sniper rifles and machine guns.
People could be seen running for cover as machine gun fire rattled around them. Drivers drove in reverse frantically to get away from the clashes.
Families with young children left their cars and lay flat in the road. Bullets cracked up ahead. ‘Dad, can we get up now?’ a small boy said to his father in a video posted on Twitter.
‘No, stay there on the floor,’ the man replied, his voice trembling.
State police said there were no confirmed deaths, but photos showed a number of blood-covered bodies strewn across various streets.
Unconfirmed reports from Sinaloa have claimed 39-year-old Iván Archivaldo Guzmán, El Chapo’s eldest son, has been killed or captured by Mexican authorities.
Some claim he too was briefly in custody but either escaped or was released.
State police said several prisoners escaped from a prison during the chaos. Video footage showed a group of between 20 to 30 people running in the streets.
It was not immediately clear how they escaped from the prison. Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda told Milenio television that some of the prisoners were quickly recaptured.
Vehicles and a petrol station were also set on fire as the cartel gunmen roamed the city.
Civilians hid in the aisles of a supermarket, while others ran for cover in leafy suburban streets.
Sinaloa’s soccer club Dorados announced that it had cancelled its game on Thursday due to security concerns.
The chaotic scenes in Culiacan, long a stronghold for the Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel, will increase pressure on President Lopez Obrador, who took office in December promising to pacify a country weary after more than a decade of drug-war fighting.
The ‘catch and release’ of Ovidio Guzman set “a dangerous precedent” and sent a message that the state itself, including the army, could be blackmailed and was not in control, analysts said
Presumed cartel members apparently intercepted a radio frequency used by security forces, one video showed, warning of reprisals against soldiers if Guzman was not freed.
Murders this year are set to be at a record high.
Sinaloa is home to the cartel by the same name, which was led by El Chapo.
He led the Sinaloa cartel for decades, escaping from prison twice before being arrested and extradited to the United States.
He was found guilty in a U.S. court in February of smuggling tons of drugs and sentenced to life in prison. After Guzmán’s third arrest in 2016, an internal battle for succession began playing out.
The battle was resolved with the arrest of Damaso López Nunez and his son Dámaso López Serrano, who led a rival faction.
The cartel is currently led by Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada with three of Guzman’s sons Ivan, Archivaldo and Alfredo.
El Chapo reportedly has 12 children including Ovidio Guzman Lopez who has grown influential in the Sinaloa cartel since his father, El Chapo, was jailed for life in the United States.
Despite the reaction to his arrest, 28-year-old Ovidio is not one of El Chapo’s best-known sons. Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán are known as ‘los Chapitos’, or ‘the little Chapos’, and are believed to currently run their father’s Sinaloa Cartel together with Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada.
Ovidio, however, is wanted in the U.S. on drug charges.
The U.S. Department of Justice in February indicted Ovidio along with another brother, Joaquín Guzmán López for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.
The indictment states that he had been involved in trafficking conspiracies since he was a teenager.