REYNOSA — A day of heavy drinking by a top Gulf Cartel boss in Reynosa helped ease his capture by Mexican authorities Tuesday evening, sources said.
On Wednesday, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office confirmed the capture of 31-year-old Jesus Alejandro “Comandante Simple” or “Metro 24” Leal, who also went by the names “Roman Leal” and “Roman N” in the Jardines Colonial neighborhood. Mexican authorities announced Wednesday that during his capture, they seized an AK-47 and a Colt 10 mm handgun.
The capture set off a series of violent firefights and roadblocks throughout the city.
In one of the firefights, Arnulfo Gomez Hernandez, a Mexican Federal Police officer, was shot and killed.
Mexican authorities have not released any official information about the number of gunmen killed or if the fighting left any casualties among bystanders, but sources within the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office pointed to four fallen gunmen.
Hours prior to his capture, Leal had been driving around Reynosa with his closest circle of guards — known as his “30s” — in an apparent day of drinking when the military troops showed up to arrest him, said a source outside law enforcement with direct knowledge of criminal activity in Tamaulipas.
“He wasn’t able to put up much of a fight, but his 30s called for reinforcements and mobilized all the estacas (foot soldiers),” the source said.
The news release issued by the Mexican government confirms that a group of gunmen tried to rescue Leal, who had been transported to the Reynosa airport, from which he was flown.
During the firefights, a group of Gulf Cartel members from Matamoros known as the Ciclones — who were in Reynosa investigating the death of one of their members — got caught up in a firefight with their Reynosa counterparts, the Metros. According to the source outside law enforcement, the Ciclones had been looking into the death of Homero “El Majadero” Cardenas Guillén, who reportedly died Friday from a heart attack. Questions about his death remain. Cardenas Guillén was the brother of legendary Gulf Cartel kingpin Osiel Cardenas Guillén, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. and is also credited with creating the Zetas as his personal guard.
In addition to the numerous roadblocks along the city’s main roads, Tamaulipas authorities also confirmed that cartel members threw a large quantity of tire spikes on the city streets in an effort to slow down authorities, which affected dozens of motorists who were stranded with flat tires.
Mario Juarez, an accountant at one of the city’s manufacturing firms, was driving home along Boulevard Hidalgo shortly after 7:30 p.m. — after the roadblocks were moved out. But he was unlucky enough to drive through an area just outside the Reynosa offices for Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, where two of his tires were pricked by the pyramid shaped road spikes.
“It was ridiculous,” Juarez said in Spanish. “I didn’t even see them; I just saw something shiny on the ground and then within half a block my tires were done for.”
The accountant was able to drive just down the road to a decrepit, metal-framed building that housed a tire repair shop.
“You should have seen it: There were about 12 of us lined up, one after the other,” Juarez said. “Once they got to my car and fixed it, the tire shop guy got the three spikes in my tires and bent them all up with a hammer.”
According to the distressed motorist, the tire shop owner told him that a Mexican soldier had asked him to destroy any road spikes he got to avoid cartel members getting their hands on them again.
During the firefights, Mexican marines used helicopters to fire down at cartel gunmen who may have been trying to free their leader, who was taken to the Reynosa airport from where he was eventually flown to Mexico City in a military plane.
Leal, along with his brother Guadalupe “El Tachas or Lupillo” Leal, grew up in the mean streets of Reynosa, where they joined the Gulf Cartel as foot soldiers at a young age, a Tamaulipas law enforcement official said, requesting anonymity for security reasons.
Initially they worked under the orders of Jaime “El Hummer” Gonzalez Duran — a top Zeta boss from the time when the Zetas were the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel — who was responsible for a number of crimes in Hidalgo County.
After Gonzalez Duran was captured Nov. 7, 2008, by Mexican authorities, the Leal brothers continued to work for the Gulf Cartel under the orders or Samuel “Metro 3” Flores Borrego, who became the plaza boss of Reynosa and ran the Zetas out of the city in early 2010. Upon Flores’ demise in late 2010, Leal continued to work for the Gulf Cartel and worked his way up to commander and eventually plaza boss, the law enforcement official said. During his criminal history, Leal made a name for himself for his ability to blend in with crowds in order to avoid capture, being referred by authorities as a “soaped-up fish.” Leal had also been linked to a series of crimes on the U.S. side of the border. It remains unclear in Texas authorities will seek to extradite him.
It remains unclear whether the capture of Leal, who controlled a region of Reynosa, will set off a power struggle among the other commanders in the city for control of the city or if other Gulf Cartel bosses will try to make a play for control of the organization.
In addition to his criminal history, Leal also made a name for himself as “Imagen” — a Mexican-style wrestler who routinely performed in northern Mexico.
The stage name led to some confusion in early April 2013, when FBI agents trying to capture the elusive kingpin raided Cine El Rey in downtown McAllen during a packed wrestling event.
Authorities detained several wrestlers, who were questioned and released as investigators looked for Leal. Authorities detained a Reynosa truck driver named R.C., who wrestled under the name “Image 2” — not “Imagen.”
In an exclusive interview in April 2013, the misidentified wrestler told The Monitor about his family’s history in wrestling and said he had taken the name “Imagen” in honor of his late brother, who continued the performance tradition founded by their father, a wrestler named “La Paloma.” Leal took the name “Imagen” but had no ties to R.C. or his family, the wrestler said in the interview.