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Mexico

Mexican Soccer Player Alan Pulido Overpowered Kidnappers

The dramatic account of derring-do shows that Pulido was the main actor in his own liberation — a contrast with initial official accounts of his rescue by police

The 25-year-old player was kidnapped near his hometown of Ciudad Victoria on Sunday after leaving a party, photo: AP/Eduardo Verdugo, File
1 year ago

CIUDAD VICTORIA, Mexico — About 24 hours after he was kidnapped, Mexican soccer star Alan Pulido found himself alone with one of his captors and saw his chance. He wrestled away the man’s pistol and his cellphone and dialed Mexico’s emergency number.

Within minutes, he was free.

An official summary report of three calls to an emergency operator shows that the 25-year-old forward for Olympiakos in the Greek league threatened and beat his captor while on the phone, demanding to be told where they were.

The dramatic account of derring-do shows that Pulido was the main actor in his own liberation — a contrast with initial official accounts of his rescue by police.

Mexican soccer player Alan Pulido, left, stands next to Tamaulipas State Gov. Egidio Torre Cantu after Pulido was rescued from kidnappers early Monday, May 30. Photo: AP/Alfredo Pena

Mexican soccer player Alan Pulido (L) stands next to Tamaulipas State Gov. Egidio Torre Cantú after Pulido was rescued from kidnappers early Monday, May 30. Photo: AP/Alfredo Peña

On a first call, with the kidnapper overpowered, Pulido peered out of a window and described the white two-story house with two cars, grey and red, parked in front.

In the next call, Pulido told the operator that state police had arrived outside. The operator told him to fire the pistol so they would know they were in the right spot, but Pulido said he had no bullets. He said police themselves were starting to shoot and described his shorts and tank top so they wouldn’t confuse him with the now-unconscious captor.

Once police arrived, he made a third call to confirm with the operator that they were trustworthy.

Tamaulipas state Attorney General Ismael Quintanilla told a news conference that emergency services had received the call after midnight Sunday due to “a careless act by his captors.”

In a later interview with Imagen Radio, he confirmed that Pulido had forcibly seized the phone from his captor.

“There was an exchange of punches between them,” Quintanilla said, though he did not mention the pistol.

Quintanilla said Pulido cut his wrist when he broke a window trying to escape.

Pulido was nabbed by four armed people on a highway while returning from a party at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. His girlfriend, who was not taken, alerted others.

“Everyone began to activate to look for him, especially when we knew who he was, because we knew it was going to make a big ruckus and was going to be affecting us a lot in the press,” Quintanilla said.

Quintanilla said the army, federal and state police participated, including three helicopters.

Pulido’s family received the first ransom call around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday and a second one a short time later, Quintanilla said.

The suspect was 38-year-old from the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, who Quintanilla said was a member of one of the criminal organizations operating in the city. He said three other suspects were identified and a search is underway.

Following his liberation, Pulido was taken for medical and psychological review and then provided a statement to investigators.

He made a brief appearance before reporters, responding only to a question about how he was: “Very well, thank God.”

Mexican Federal Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo said in an interview on Radio Formula Monday that authorities believe the kidnappers were motivated solely by the potential financial gain of ransom — which was not paid.

His Greek club expressed relief over his safe escape from kidnappers.

“Alan is safe and sound with his family. We thank everyone for their concern and prayers during the difficult moments he has lived,” Olympiakos said on its Twitter page.

The kidnapping happened one week before scheduled elections for a new governor. Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, has been plagued with violence in recent years as the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels battle for control. Both organizations also are involved in theft, extortion and kidnappings.

In this Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 file photo, Olympiakos' Alan Pulido (L) fights for the ball with Anderlecht's Alexander Buttner during the Europa League round of 32 soccer match at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Photo: AP/Thanassis Stavrakis, file

In this Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 file photo, Olympiakos’ Alan Pulido (L) fights for the ball with Anderlecht’s Alexander Buttner during the Europa League round of 32 soccer match at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Photo: AP/Thanassis Stavrakis, file

Pulido made his professional debut with the club Tigres of Monterrey, Mexico, but after four seasons there signed a 2014 contract with Olympiakos. He since has been embroiled in a legal dispute with Tigres over whether his Mexican contract remains valid.

He was on Mexico’s 2014 World Cup squad, but was omitted from the team for next month’s Copa América. National team coach Carlos Osorio recently said Pulido was omitted because of his contract troubles. He had scored three goals in earlier call-ups for Mexico. He scored five goals in limited action for Olympiakos last season.

According to government statistics, there were 41 reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas in the first four months of this year compared to 78 during the same period last year. The actual number is believed to be much higher since most people do not report kidnappings to authorities.

Also from January to April 2016, there were 179 murders in the state, compared to 211 during the same period last year.

Mexico saw another soccer-related kidnapping in 2005, when Cruz Azul’s Argentine coach Rubén Omar Romano was abducted in Mexico City. He was captive 65 days before being freed by federal police.

ALFREDO PEÑA

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