03/04/12 – On March 3, media outlets in Mexico announced the death of Jonathan Salas Avilés, “El Fantasma,” thought to be the chief of security for Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo,” which resulted from a confrontation with the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina Armada de México, SEMAR). According to an undisclosed source within the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), “El Fantasma” was injured in an incident with the Navy in Quilá, Sinaloa, where two people died and a third one, allegedly “El Fantasma,” was injured and taken to a hospital where he passed away a few hours later.
The Mexican Navy confirmed the confrontation and the death of two individuals at the scene and the death of a third individual at a hospital in Culiacán, but they did not confirm the identity of any of the individuals involved. Mario López Valdés, the governor of Sinaloa, then stated that the death of “El Chapo’s” chief of security was going to bring more peace to the region. However, the conflicting statements started when the Sinaloa State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) stated that it was not clear whether one of the victims was “El Fantasma” since the body had yet to be identified. The PGJE said that the investigation in determining the identity of the deceased was going to be conducted by the PGR.
The Attorney General, Marco Antonio Higuera Gómez, then confirmed that none of the individuals killed during the confrontation in Quilá was “El Fantasma.” After the initial investigation, authorities released that Jonathan Salas Avilés, the individual who died in the hospital, was not the alleged chief of security for “El Chapo.” The individual was instead identified as Jonathan Salas, was in no way related to “El Fantasma,” and had no criminal record in Sinaloa. Later on it was also disclosed that it was military personnel from the Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and not SEMAR who arrived at the scene and returned fire after being attacked with firearms by an unknown number of individuals. During the operation, SEDENA secured various weapons, vehicles, and equipment.