MEXICO CITY -- Authorities suspected they had a top cartel assassin when Enrique Elizondo allegedly confessed soon after his arrest to torturing and killing dozens of victims he dragged off buses and cars along the highways of northern Mexico, and then dismembering and burning their bodies.
Now it appears that Elizondo enjoyed his work.
“He liked to film himself,” said an official at the Nuevo Leon state security office, who asked not to be identified by name because the investigation is ongoing.
Videos taken by a cellphone allegedly show Elizondo, known variously as “the Raven” or “the Arab,” and his team of highwaymen dancing in the middle of the road to booming reggaeton music, as they use knives to carve fingers and ears off four dead men, who were bound and shot in the head.
The videos reportedly show Elizondo boasting about his killings. “He appears to be very happy,” said the security official, who mentioned that Elizondo had the images in his possession when he was arrested in January.
Prosecutors allege that Elizondo, who was paraded in front of the media at the time of his arrest, of kidnapping and killing 36 people who were taken off buses near the town of Cerralvo, about 50 miles south of Texas border town of Roma. In addition, he was charged with killing six local policemen from Cerralvo, and a father and his 6-year-old daughter in a car-jacking.
According to the newspaper Reforma, which first published details of the videos on Monday, Elizondo and his crew were dressed in military uniforms, wearing bullet-proof vests and carrying automatic rifles, when they filmed themselves dismembering their victims.
The videos are now in the possession of a judge and prosecutor and will be used as evidence, officials said, to illustrate the brutality of Elizondo and his team, who are currently in Topo Chico prison in Nuevo Leon state.
Elizondo was boasting of his crime spree in a cantina in Salinas Victoria, a town north of the business and industrial hub of Monterrey, on the night of Jan. 20 when a patron ducked out and called police. They easily arrested Elizondo, who was stumbling drunk and unarmed, according to the account in Reforma.
Based on his statements to police, which Elizondo later said was made under torture, and the court files, Elizondo was a former bricklayer recruited into the Zeta crime syndicate in 2010.
He was sent to a Zeta training camp and taught use of weapons and military-style tactics. Then he was assigned to a Zeta detachment operating in Cerralvo.
The Zeta cell was run by a local shopkeeper, who maintained two hunter-killer crews of seven men each, who worked robbing, carjacking, killing -- and fighting their sworn enemies in the Gulf Cartel.
The hunter-killer crews were guarded by a set of “antenna” teams that coordinated their movements, based on reports made by the “halcones,” or hawks, the lookouts who keep the Zetas informed about the movements of police, military, and possible Gulf Cartel incursions, as well as criminal opportunities.
Researcher Gabriela Martinez contributed to this report.