Capture of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero marred by Black Hawk helicopter tragedy

Image of an MH-60M Black Hawk helicopter landing aboard the USS Bataan. Credit: Wikipedia - PHAN Pedro A. Rodriguez, USN Public Domain

The Mexican Navy has captured Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the FBI’s most wanted drug lords, but the arrest was marred by a Black Hawk helicopter crash killing 14 occupants.


According to a statement from the Mexican Navy, Rafael Caro Quintero, the notorious Mexican drug lord – who was one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals – has been arrested. His arrest took place on Friday, July 15, in the Sinaloa state town of San Simon.

A joint operation involving the attorney general’s office and the Mexican Navy resulted in the 69-year-old being caught after a bloodhound named Max apparently sniffed him out while he was hiding in scrubland, as reported by

Tragically, a Black Hawk helicopter transporting 15 crew members crashed during the operation. It went down near the coastal city of Los Mochis, killing 14 people instantly. One passenger survived but is reported to be in a serious condition according to a Navy statement. The cause of the crash has not been revealed but was said to have been an accident.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the President of Mexico promised that a full investigation would take place after the aircraft crashed just as it was coming in to land. Images of the helicopter wreckage in a field have been uploaded onto social media.

Caro Quintero was shown in blurred images and footage online being escorted away by armed men wearing camouflage uniforms. A reward of $20m (€19.8m) had been offered by the FBI for his capture. In 2013, after 28 years in prison, he walked out of prison after being freed by a Mexican judge on a technicality.

His 40-year sentence for kidnapping and killing Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1985 was upheld by the US Supreme Court, by which time, Quintero had already disappeared.

In the late 1970s, Quintero rose to prominence as the co-founder of what became one of Mexico’s biggest drug organisations in the ’80s, the Guadalajara cartel. His story was the inspiration for the 2018 drama, Narcos: Mexico. His cartel was responsible for flooding the US with marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Juan Gonzalez, a White House senior advisor in Latin America posted on Twitter:

“There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement”, said Merrick Garland, the US Attorney General in a statement.”Today’s arrest is the culmination of tireless work by DEA and their Mexican partners to bring Caro Quintero to justice for his alleged crimes, including the torture and execution of DEA Special Agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena”.

He added: “We will be seeking his immediate extradition to the United States so he can be tried for these crimes in the very justice system Special Agent Camarena died defending”.

Mexico’s President Obrador had previously claimed to have no interest in detaining drug lords. Friday’s arrest though came just days after he held a meeting at the White House in Washington with US president Joe Biden.


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Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]