Fatal Mexico casino fire: Criminal finally convicted after 12 years

The suspect in a deadly Mexican casino fire has finally been convicted after 12 years, although some think the government took too long.

Apr 8, 2024
2 min read
The charred facade of Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, after an arson attack in 2011. One of
The charred facade of Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico, after an arson attack in 2011. One of the suspects behind the attack was finally


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Fatal Mexico casino fire: Criminal finally convicted after 12 years

Luis Adán “El Gordo” Gómez Vázquez was convicted of participating in the August 25, 2011 arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico. The attack killed 52 people.

On September 18, 2011, then-federal police arrested Gómez Vázquez at a safe house in Colonia Lázaro Cárdenas, Santa Catarina, Nuevo León. They found weapons and drugs as well as other suspected accomplices.

Federal authorities identified Gomez, the notorious leader of the Los Zetas drug cartel, as a key figure in monitoring the casino on the day of the attack. While the verdict could bring peace to the victims' families, other suspects have yet to be arrested.

During the raid on the safe house, authorities seized several items, including a Nissan Sentra with Texas license plates, narcotic cocaine hydrochloride and crack cocaine. They also seized two .45 caliber pistols, two 7.62x39 mm caliber long guns loaded with 55 rounds of ammunition and other weapons.

Gomez, who also goes by the name José Pérez and the alias "El Comandante Pelón," is a former military officer and former agent with the Monterrey Police Department. This allowed him to use his connections to obtain weapons only available to the military.

Sentencing Details

The sentence imposed had nothing to do with the Casino Royale fire itself but was due to items discovered by authorities during his arrest and witness testimony linking him to organized crime.

"El Gordo" was found guilty of possession of cocaine hydrochloride (traded as Numbrino in the United States) with intent to traffic, organized crime and possession of military weapons. His sentence made no mention of his role in the victim's death.

He is serving a 32-year sentence at the federal social readjustment center in Durango. In addition, he was fined 392,620 Mexican pesos ($22,948).

When police arrested Gomez, they also arrested several of his accomplices, including Jesus Rafael "El Colitas" Torres Bautista. A year ago, he committed suicide in prison.

Remember Casino Royale Fire

The verdict almost coincides with the anniversary of the attack. At approximately 3:15 pm on August 25, 2011, thick smoke billowed from Casino Royale.

Surveillance cameras outside the casino captured the gunmen arriving in four vehicles and entering through the casino's main gate. Witness accounts from the time added that they began spraying gasoline on slot machines and carpets.

Then they lit the gas and within minutes the fire was out of control. Many of the victims died at the casino, and several others died while being treated at local hospitals.

The attack came as Casino Royale bosses allegedly refused to pay extortion fees to the cartel. The gang tries to take revenge on the innocent guests of the mansion.

Since the incident, relatives of the 52 victims have placed offerings outside the casino every year to commemorate their loved ones. They hold mass every year and demand justice.

A year ago, Mexico's Undersecretary for Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas, issued the government's formal public apology. However, friends and family of the victims then and now were not impressed. They believe the government has still not done its job to bring all perpetrators to justice, or is taking too long to prosecute those arrested. The long delay in Gomez's sentencing bolsters their case.

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