10/19/13 — Press reports and officials announced the death of Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, the eldest brother of the nine siblings that make up the leadership of the Tijuana Cartel, also known as the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO). Borderland Beat reports that the killing occurred at around 8pm Friday, October 18 at a child’s birthday party that took place in a beachside cabana of the Hotel Marbella, a luxury resort located just east of El Tule, a popular surf spot between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. According to the same report, the musical group “Los Toritos” was performing at the event, the party was attended by Sinaloan sports figures (including soccer star Jared Borghetti and boxer Omar Chavez), and there were as many as 100 guests in attendance.
Most accounts indicate that there was a lone assailant and some say that the subject was shot by a man dressed in a clown suit with a red clown nose. The man reportedly entered the party suddenly and shot the subject once in the head and twice in the chest, fleeing the scene immediately after. The Associated Press (AP) reported that a crime scene photo showed the subject’s body lying on a tile floor and covered by a bloody sheet. The Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la Justicia, PGR) indicated that one of the Grancisco Rafael’s sons identified the body. Federal, state, and local officials responded to the incident and are continuing to investigate.
According to El Universal, Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was born on October 24, 1949, meaning that he was 63 (just shy of his 64th birthday) when he was killed. He was first arrested in San Diego on August 7, 1980 for attempting to sell 205 grams of cocain to an undercover DEA agent, and then was again arrested in Mexico in 1993 for the murder of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. While still in custody for serving a ten year sentence for weapons possession, in 2004, a judge approved his extradition to the United States, which was carried out on September 16, 2006. Then on October 15, 2007, Francisco Rafael was sentenced in the United States to prison for six years, after being found guilty of the 1980 cocaine deal. On March 4, 2008, U.S. authorities released him early due to good behavior, according to his lawyer Brian White, and he was repatriated to Mexico via the Santa Fe bridge in El Paso into Ciudad Juárez.
The motivation and implications of Francisco Rafael’s killing remain unclear, and the AP reports that his role was not critical to the AFO. According to John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who co-authored a 2003 indictment against the AFO leadership, “He was never really part of the leadership of the big organization, mostly because he was in jail (in Mexico). He was arrested before they became what they really became.”