More details emerge about El Chapo’s capture, as Mexico prepares to extradite him to the US

The story’s not over yet.
The story’s not over yet.
Image: Reuters/Tomas Bravo
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Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman can’t blame Sean Penn for leading the military to his hideout in Sinaloa, where he was captured on Jan. 8 after months on the lam. Though some suspect that the fugitive’s secret meetings with the US actor were a beacon to authorities, El Chapo’s location was apparently given away by a neighbor.

Today Mexico launched the process of extraditing Guzman to the US, which could take months. Guzman’s cartel is responsible for tons of shipments of drugs to the US, as he infamously told Penn in Rolling Stone.  He’s currently being held at the same maximum-security prison, in Altiplano, from which he escaped in July.

Mike Vigil, a former US Drug Enforcement Administration official, told the Los Angeles Times that the pivotal tip this month came from a neighbor’s report of suspicious activity at the house where Guzman was hiding. On the residential street in Los Mochis, a coastal town in Mexico’s state of Sinaloa, the sight of two armored cars and military-style weapons didn’t seem right to at least one person. Other residents hadn’t noticed anything and said they were shocked when the sounds of helicopters and gunfire blasted the street on Friday.

According to The Guardian, the standoff between Guzman’s crew and the Mexican special forces began around 4:30am, when Guzman’s side noticed the military closing in on the house and opened fire. During the shootout, Guzman and one of his associates fled the scene through a sewer; for hours during the day, reportedly, the military searched for him in underground tunnels.

When Guzman and his accomplice came back above ground, they stole a car that was stopped at a red light and sped off on a highway. Somewhere on the road, police caught them and called the special forces. Rather than wait on the highway, the police then took the men to a motel nearby, where the military eventually arrived to take them away.

Authorities told the press that they came close to capturing Guzman in October, at the hideout where he’d met with Penn around the same time, but the raid failed.