After escaping from Altiplano prison near Mexico City on July 11, 2015, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, also known as El Chapo, spent six months on the run from authorities. The Mexican drug lord, and former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, escaped from the maximum security prison before he could be formally sentenced and he was attempting to fight extradition to the U.S at that time.
Altiplano is widely recognized as one of Mexico’s most secure prisons, however Guzmán managed to escape through a tunnel that led into the floor of his cell. When guards realized that he was missing from his cell, they found a ventilated tunnel and an exit that had been constructed in the bathtub inside Guzman’s cell. The tunnel extended for approximately a mile underground and included a railed motorcycle which is thought to have been used to transport the equipment and tools necessary to create the tunnel.
This was the second escape from prison for Guzmán. He had previously spent over 10 years on the run after escaping from a different Mexican prison in 2001 after he’d bribed guards to help him. The guards were later prosecuted and convicted.
News of Guzmán’s 2015 escape sparked a wide-range manhunt, focusing on the immediate area primarily. Checkpoints and roadblocks were set up and air searches were undertaken. The whole of the prison was put on lockdown and no one was allowed to enter or leave. The search later extended into other federal entities such as Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos, and Guerrero. However, most of the military officers involved in the search for Guzmán were sent to the State of Mexico. The Mexican government also issued an international warning to prevent Guzmán from leaving the country through airports, border checkpoints, or ports. Interpol and other organizations were alerted to the possibility of him escaping into another country.
After receiving a tip from citizens regarding some ‘armed people‘ staying at a house in the city of Los Mochis in northern Sinaloa, the residence was placed under surveillance for almost a month. Communications were intercepted which indicated the house was being prepared for the arrival of someone of high priority. Following a later tip about where Guzmán was supposedly sleeping, authorities decided to act.
On January 8, 2015, at just after 4:30 a.m, Operation Black Swan, a joint Mexican and US-led military operation set up to capture Guzmán, went into full effect. The Seventeen elite unit Mexican Marines stormed the residence, and were met with fierce resistance – as can be seen in the footage.They were met by about twelve well-armed guards inside who were prepared for a fight Just like many of Guzmán’s homes, this one was equipped with several escape hatches: a decoy beneath the refrigerator, and another behind a mirror, which he used to escape as the battle between the marines and his gunmen raged on.
During the raid, five gunmen were killed, six others arrested, and one Marine was wounded. Guzmán was picked up just hours later on a highway heading out of town.
Two days after Guzmán was recaptured, Mexico formally launched a renewed process of extradition to the U.S. Guzmán was wanted in Chicago, San Diego, New York City, New Hampshire, Miami, and Texas, in addition to having indictments in at least seven different U.S. federal courts. Charges against him included drug trafficking, conspiracy association, organized crime against health, money laundering, homicide, illegal possession of firearms, kidnapping, and murder. On 19 January 2017, Guzmán was extradited to the U.S. to face the charges. He was found guilty of all counts and was sentenced on 17 July 2019 to life in prison plus 30 years. He was also ordered to forfeit $12.6 billion. He is currently serving his sentence at ADX Florence, a high security Supermax prison.
Video footage of El Chapo being processed in a Mexican prison following his capture can be viewed HERE.
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