A Mexican military helicopter crashed during an operation to capture a notorious drug lord on Friday, killing 14 of the 15 people on board.
Mexican cartel kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero, who murdered a U.S. federal agent in 1985, was captured by an elite Mexican military unit in Sinaloa after a search dog found the him hiding in the brush.
The Associated Press reported that a Blackhawk helicopter crashed “during the operation,” although Mexican officials appear to have suggested that the crash was an “accident.” A report from Reuters said that there was no information “indicating the incident was related to the arrest” of Quintero, which it claimed was in another part of the state of Sinaloa.
Quintero was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena but was let out in 2013 after 28 years behind bars because a judge in Mexico ruled that he should have been tried in a federal court, not a state court.
When Mexican officials went to retry the case, Quintero went into hiding and remained on the run for almost 10 years.
With a $20 million price tag on his head from the U.S. government, Quintero reportedly reassembled his drug cartel shortly after being let out of prison.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the work of Mexican officials for capturing Quintero, who was on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted fugitive list.
“There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement,” Garland said. “We are deeply grateful to Mexican authorities for their capture and arrest of Rafael Caro-Quintero. 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.”
“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,” he added. “We join in mourning the 14 Mexican servicemembers who gave their lives in service to their country and extend our condolences to the loved ones they left behind.”
The FBI said that Quintero allegedly “holds an active key leadership position directing the activities of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Caro-Quintero Drug Trafficking Organization.”
Quintero was one of the most prolific traffickers of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to the U.S. in the late 1970s.