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The botched and bloody Mexican operation to capture one of El Chapo’s sons Thursday puts the international spotlight on the drug kingpin’s grown children, who’ve taken on key roles in the Sinaloa Cartel since their father’s been behind bars.
Culiacán, a stronghold of the cartel, broke out in violence Thursday as Mexican authorities captured 28-year-old Ovidio Guzmán López — who’s wanted in both Mexico and the United States — and then released him amid a full-scale shootout with cartel members in broad daylight that left cars burning and civilians running for cover.
The local cops reportedly stumbled upon Ovidio at a Culiacán house and moved in to try to capture him without military support, and were ill-prepared for the firefight that ensued, said Mexico’s top army general. Another of Chapo’s sons, Iván Archivaldo Guzmán, was also rumored to have been captured and released, but his situation remains unconfirmed amid the chaos.
Ovidio and Ivan are just two of Chapo’s sons, known collectively as “Los Chapitos” — or “Los Menores,” The Minors — who’ve become targets for U.S. and Mexican authorities. The Department of Justice charged Ovidio and Joaquín Guzman López with drug trafficking in February and have been trying to track them down ever since.
El Chapo has a lot of sons: The official count is 15, but up to 24 people are rumored to be his offspring. Most of them aren’t in the cartel business, but at least four are said to be key players — and they’ve been continuously staving off challenges to their power since their dad’s imprisonment. They’re thought to control the local drug trade in Culiacán, Mazatlán, Guamúchil, and other Sinaloan cities, and they use groups of gunmen, notably one called “Los Demonios,” or the Demons, to enforce their rule.
Still, the top dog in the cartel remains Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, who ran it in partnership with Chapo.
“When Chapo Guzmán was extradited to the U.S., the Chaptios wanted to manage the Sinaloa Cartel, but they were prevented from doing so by Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada because he knew that the cartel would be decimated,” Mike Vigil, the former chief of International Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told VICE News.
“Gúzman’s sons have never gotten their hands dirty. They were very good at spending their father’s money buying luxurious cars, gold-plated AK-47s, running around with girlfriends,” he added. “They don’t really have the respect of the rank-and-file of the Sinaloa Cartel.”
Here’s what you need to know about Los Chapitos.
Ovidio Guzmán López
Nicknamed “El Ratón” (the mouse), the child of Chapo’s second marriage is at the center of the Culiacán mayhem, reportedly captured by authorities. He’s been wanted for years.
After the cartel opened fire on authorities in the streets, the Mexican government deemed the threat of violence to civilians too high. And they let him go.
Iván Archivaldo Guzmán
He’s El Chapo’s eldest son at 39 years old, a key Chapito who’s reportedly been trying to wrest power from former Sinaloa Cartel leaders, some of whom are now the Chapitos’ rivals.
There were conflicting reports Friday about whether he’d been captured in the raid that ensnared brother Ovidio.
Ivan and another brother, Alfredo, were briefly taken hostage by the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel while their dad was still running the show from prison in 2016.
Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar
Generally referred to as Alfredo or “Alfredillo,” he’s on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted list, the only one of Chapo’s kids to have that distinction.
He’s believed to be running parts of the cartel with brother Iván. And he’s not doing it humbly.
Afredo’s become known for his lavish lifestyle, which he flaunts without reservation on social media, despite being one of the DEA’s most wanted. He was reportedly partying a lot rather than taking his drug trafficking job seriously while being groomed to take a leadership role in the cartel when he was kidnapped by the Jalisco New Generation cartel in 2016 with Iván.
Joaquín Guzmán López
Little is known about Joaquín. He’s kept a relatively low profile compared to his brothers, but he does appear to be directly involved in cartel operations.
The Department of Justice charged him, along with Iván, with drug trafficking back in February.
Correction 10/19 7:11 p.m.: A previous version of this article included a photo of a man the Mexican marines incorrectly identified as Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar in 2012. It has been replaced.
Keegan Hamilton contributed reporting.
Cover: Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar (Image via DEA’s “most wanted fugitives” list)
UNC shooting victim who was hailed a hero honored with ‘Star Wars’ character
Howell’s heroic efforts saved people’s lives, police said at the time.December 25, 2019, 1:33 PM4 min read Riley Howell, who was hailed a hero for sacrificing his life to protect others in the shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has been honored with a “Star Wars” character that was named after him.…
Riley Howell, who was hailed a hero for sacrificing his life to protect others in the shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has been honored with a “Star Wars” character that was named after him.
Howell was killed on April 30 when a gunman opened fire inside one of the school’s buildings. He helped take the gunman off his feet and, in doing so, saved lives, police said at the time.
Howell’s legacy will carry on with the character, Ri-Lee Howell, who is a Jedi master and historian, according to “The Rise of Skywalker” visual dictionary, which was released on Dec. 20, the same day the latest film in the franchise came out.
The Jedi are described as guardians “of peace and justice” and “protectors united by their ability to harness the power of the Force,” according to Wookieepedia, a fan-run Stars Wars encyclopedia.
Lauren Westmoreland, Howell’s girlfriend, said Monday that the character was the perfect tribute for him.
“Riley is the biggest fan of Star Wars that I’ve ever known, ever since he was little!!!!!” Westmoreland posted on the video-sharing TikTok app.
“Thank you for giving my love this best Christmas gift this year and making him part of the Star Wars universe forever,” the post continued.
The video included baby photos of Howell playing with “Star Wars” figurines.
Howell was credited with taking the assailant “off his feet” during the shooting, allowing officers to step in and apprehend him, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said at the time.
Without him, “the assailant may not have been disarmed,” according to Putney.
“His sacrifice saved lives,” Putney said.
Another student, Ellis Parlier, 19, was also killed in the shooting and four more were wounded.
Memorial service to be held for slain teen to remember her ‘light’
In lieu of flowers, Blanchard’s family asks guests to donate to charities. December 21, 2019, 9:07 PM7 min read A memorial service was held for Aniah Blanchard on Saturday in Alabama, where relatives and loved ones remembered the “light” she brought to their lives. The ceremony at the Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham was…
In lieu of flowers, Blanchard’s family asks guests to donate to charities.
December 21, 2019, 9:07 PM
7 min read
A memorial service was held for Aniah Blanchard on Saturday in Alabama, where relatives and loved ones remembered the “light” she brought to their lives.
The ceremony at the Faith Chapel Christian Center in Birmingham was a “celebration of life.”
The church was filled with dozens of Blanchard’s family, friends and members of her hometown of Homewood, where she attended their public schools and played high school softball.
Most of the mourners wore Blanchard’s favorite color, baby blue, which “fit her personality — bright, big and vast as the ocean,” a member of Homewood High School’s Air Force Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps said during their alternated flag-folding ceremony in her honor.
“It’s easy for me to talk about Aniah, she is my mini-me…I gave birth to her on my birthday,” said Blanchard’s heartbroken mother Angela Haley Harris. “She is the greatest gift to me.”
“This memorial service is a celebration of Aniah’s life and to commemorate who Aniah was and the impact her life and ‘light’ is having on the entire world,” according to the Facebook event page created for the service.
“Aniah was light, she made you feel okay when you look in her eyes,” said Noah Wail, Blanchard’s godbrother.
“She was my person I would talk to when I needed someone,” he added, wiping away a tear before playing a guitar tribute to the Rascal Flatts’ “What Hurts The Most.”
Blanchard was studying early childhood education at Southern Union College with hopes of transferring to Auburn University.
“Aniah had a light that you wanted to be around. The light she had every day of her life is still here and is still being shared,” said Hannah Haley, Blanchard’s cousin.
“Aniah is my biggest fan. She would always tell me when it came to my career it will be okay, you gotta keep going,” said Walt Harris, Blanchard’s stepfather and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter. “So now I have to go strong for the other kids…Glad to have her in my life and how she had an impact on my life.”
Amy Letson, one of Blanchard’s softball coaches, shared an anecdote of that showed “Aniah’s beautiful spirit.” After a game, Blanchard told the losing team that “she was proud of them and she could tell they worked very hard,” Letson recalled.
“Together we learned to work together, work hard and be kind to others,” read Blanchard’s younger sister, Aylah, with her two older brothers by her side. “We are so happy you are our sissy.”
Bill Cleveland, superintendent of Homewood Public Schools, announced establishing a scholarship that will be made in Blanchard’s honor to continue the her legacy.
The family requested that in lieu of flowers, all donations be made in Blanchard’s name to: The Texas Equusearch Group, Children’s Hospital of Alabama or the Birmingham Human Society, in honor of her beloved dog “Blue.”
Throughout the over two-hour service, dozens of photographs from Blanchard’s life were displayed in a slideshow along with videos of her smile that brought comfort and peace, mourners said.
Blanchard was last seen at a convenience store in Auburn, Alabama, on Oct. 23. She was allegedly abducted by Ibraheem Yazeed, who authorities say shot her when she “went for the gun,” according to court documents.
The 19-year-old’s body was found shot to death on Nov. 25, approximately 36 miles away in a wooded area in Shorter.
A tipster led police to Yazeed, who was in Pensacola, Florida, authorities said. He was already out on $295,000 bond for a separate kidnapping case from January in Montgomery, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Yazeed, 30, is being charged with two counts of capital murder charges in connection with Blanchard’s death. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.
David Johnson Jr., 63, and Antwon Fisher, 35, were also charged in connection to Blanchard’s murder, though Fisher’s charges were dropped this week because of “legal and jurisdictional grounds,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes confirmed to ABC News on Saturday.
Johnson Jr., 63, is charged with hindering prosecution.
“The investigation into the murder of Aniah Blanchard is still ongoing and we will continue to evaluate and exhaust all leads in the pursuit of justice for Aniah and her family,” Hughes said.