Grainy footage appears to capture kidnapping of son of Mexican cartel leader 'El Chapo'

Grainy footage aired on Mexican media appears to capture in cinematic fashion the moment when gunmen stormed an upscale restaurant and kidnapped six men — including Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, a son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the imprisoned head of the Sinaloa cartel.

The website of  Mexican news outlet El Universal late Wednesday posted the silent footage, apparently taken from security cameras at the targeted La Leche restaurant in the coastal resort city of Puerto Vallarta.

Earlier, Mexican media had shown still images from the footage in a breach of the investigation labeled “irresponsible” by Eduardo Almaguer, prosecutor for Jalisco state, which includes Puerto Vallarta.

Also circulating in the Mexican media was a photo, purportedly found in one of a number of seized cellphones, showing Mexican actress Kate del Castillo posing with Guzman Salazar. It was not clear when the photo was taken; its authenticity was not confirmed.

Last year, Del Castillo helped arrange a clandestine meeting in Mexico between the then-fugitive cartel boss and Sean Penn, the Hollywood actor and director. Penn later wrote about the encounter in an article for Rolling Stone magazine.

A major question in the case is how alleged high-level traffickers who routinely travel with teams of bodyguards could be nabbed by surprise without a shot being fired. 

Initially, the security footage shows restaurant patrons crouching for cover below a rectangular table as several armed assailants burst into the dining area, commando-style, at about 1 a.m. Monday.

Glasses are scattered on the table at a celebratory get-together of 16 people, all linked to Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, prosecutors say.

A second take, likely from a different security camera and apparently recorded earlier, shows a male patron standing near the door of the restaurant while chatting on his cellphone. He appears to look through the entrance and turn away just before armed attackers rush into the establishment. Four gunmen pass by him before subduing the table full of revelers.

It is unclear if the man on the phone was initially so distracted by his call that he was unaware of the assault — or was trying to be inconspicuous in the hope that he might be able to slip out the door. If his intent was the latter, the strategy failed.

A fifth assailant, wearing a baseball cap and wielding a rifle, stopped the man on the phone from exiting the restaurant; the gunman seems to direct a confederate to hold the man at gunpoint.

The footage shifts to a scene of a number of captive men, hands behind their heads, being herded to the entrance of the restaurant and being forced to kneel.

All six kidnap victims were taken away in a pair of SUVs, Mexican authorities say. Their fates remain publicly unknown.  

Seven attackers were involved in the storming of the restaurant, Mexican authorities say. Prosecutors suspect a rival group, the Jalisco New Generation cartel, was behind the strike.

There has been speculation in the Mexican press that one restaurant patron may have escaped since authorities say 16 were at the celebration, yet only 15 have been publicly accounted for — the six men kidnapped and nine women who were not taken.

Mexican authorities have not confirmed reports that a second son of Guzman, Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar, known as “El Chapito,” after his father’s moniker, may have managed to slip away. Ivan Archivaldo is the older brother of Jesus Alfredo, the kidnapped son.

U.S. authorities have called the sons high-level operatives in Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel and are seeking them on drug trafficking and other charges. Their father was recaptured in January after a spectacular jailbreak last year from a Mexican prison and is fighting extradition to the United States.

Cecilia Sanchez of the Los Angeles Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

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