“HEARST” and “Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat

A municipal police officer who acted as the chief bodyguard for the mayor was abducted and executed by cartel hitmen in northern Sonora. Shortly after, a message from “El 8 from Sonoyta”, from La Chapiza, was found which announced that a purge of police officers and soldiers had just begun. 

The next day a new message from La Chapiza appear in which they said “La Chapiza gunmen don’t threaten government personnel” and that “whoever released that threatening narco message yesterday has 2 hours to leave this town.” 

So, was the message a fake created by rivals, or was it created by a Chapiza hitman gone rogue, or are they denying their own crime to lessen the heat?

Kidnapping and Execution of the Officer

During the afternoon of November 18, 2022, cartel hitmen approached the home of off-duty police officer Jose Ramon Cañez Leon and abducted him, forcing him into their vehicle.

This kidnapping took place in Pitiquito, Sonora, near Caborca. This area has been hotly contested for years, and most especially after the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero because it led to a war between his group -the Caborca Cartel- and Sinaloa Cartel forces, from the Chapitos side, some of which have dubbed themselves “La Chapiza”. Both groups are currently battling for control of the northwestern region in the state of Sonora.

Someone reported him missing and by 8:00 pm investigators were seen collecting evidence at his home, the abduction location. Authorities began to search throughout the region for the officer.

At 8:20 pm, someone called the emergency phone line and reported that officer Cañez Leon had been killed, or “deprived of life”, according to a statement by Sonora’s Public Security

Then, at 9:00 pm, police officers were seen cordoning off the location where a dead body had been dumped, located on a section of the highway known as “Las Calabazas” that connects Pitiquito with Caborca. At 10:20 pm, agents of the state Attorney General’s Office arrived at the scene and preliminarily identified the dead body as that of Officer Cañez. 

Cañez Leon was killed by gunshot wounds, presumably inflicted by his abductors. Some publications, such as PacoZea, say his body was “riddled with bullets”.  

Jose Ramon Cañez Leon was 31 years old and he worked as the chief bodyguard for the mayor of Caborca, Abraham David Mier Nogales. He leaves behind a wife and child. 

A narco message sign was discovered at approximately 11:00 pm next to the Cuauhtémoc Elementary School, located on Primera Street, near its intersection with Avenue P.

The cartel news Twitter account Calvarie Locus and the local news account Art. 7mo el Observador posted photos, shown below, which allegedly shows the sign that was left. 

It reads as follows, as translated by Sol Prendido:

The purge has begun against all municipal policemen and military personnel. Stay within your barracks or leave this area for your own good. We wont be responsible for the safety of all military men caught outside of the civil cartel. 

El 8 from Sonoyta 


Later Denial of Involvement 

The next day, a narco message sign was taped over top of a billboard in the Ortiz neighborhood of the city of Caborca. The message appears to be a response to the message left at the elementary school. 

It reads as follows, as translated by Sol Prendido:

La Chapiza gunmen don’t threaten government personnel. The only individuals who die here are those responsible. Whoever released that threatening narco message yesterday has 2 hours to leave this town. 

It’s interesting to note that the message doesn’t make it clear who they believe created the previous message. 

This presents a number of possibilities, such as:

  1. A rival cartel posted the message at the Cuauhtémoc Elementary School, signing the message with “La Chapiza” in order to bring down heat –a way of saying law enforcement attention- on them. 

  1. A rogue member (or group of members) of La Chapiza created and posted the message without getting approval on the content of the message from their superiors. La Chapiza is now kicking them out and this message is them publicly denouncing them. 

  1. La Chapiza was behind the original message and the content of the message was approved however they are now trying to deny they were involved. 

El 8 de Sonoyta 

What can we make of the name signed on the original message, “El 8 de Sonoyta”? Well, that was one of the aliases of Santiago Mazari Hernández, also known as “El Carrete”, a leader of the BLO splinter group Los Rojos, who is currently serving time in federal prison.

However, Carrete’s group of followers is currently fighting in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City and quite a far distance away from Sonora. Based on the huge geographic distance, it seems unlikely that “El 8 de Sonoyta” is referring to Santiago Mazari Hernández. 

It’s more likely that “El 8 de Sonoyta” is an alias being used by a different cartel figure who is currently operating in Sonora. The alias may have been picked up due to the 2008 narcocorrido about El 8 sung by Larry Hernandez.

A more recent corrido called Gente del 8 by Victor Eme may be about the new Sonora figure. With lyrics like “Sonorita is the zone and 8 controls the plaza, the boss 100 takes care of him.” 

Based on information from an October 2022 interrogation video, it’s likely that El 8 is working under the leadership of Óscar Martínez Larios, alias “El Gabito” and “El 80”, and someone known as “Acord”. To read up on Gabito’s criminal history, please see this previous story

Meanwhile, on the Caborca Cartel side, we have recently seen videos of hitmen who allegedly work under “El Lobo”, another figure whose real name is unknown.

Some of their top leadership is believed to include Rodrigo Páez Quintero, alias “El R”, and Adelmo Núñez Molina, alias “Lemo Nuñez”, as well as others such as the recently married El Frank and their longtime head of hitmen, leader of La Barredora 24/7, Jesus Dario Murrieta Navarro, alias “Cara de Cochi”. 

Kidnapping of the Officer Sources: Sonora Public Security Statement, Sonora Informativo, Excelsior, El Sol de Hermosillo, PacoZea, Debate, Informador, LatinUS, Voz Populi Noticias, Paudal, La Pancarta, City Hall’s Condolence Message, Calvarie Locus, Art. 7mo el Observador – Home Evidence Collection, Body Discovery, Narco Message Discovery, Narco Message Photos 

Later Denial Sources: Art. 7mo el Observador, Sonora Informativo, Valor por Tamaulipas

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