The Mexican government first announced Gonzalez's death in 2010 after a two-day shootout. Many had their doubts.
"We've never found a body, fingerprints, photographs," George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary, told CNN in 2011. "We know his burial site, but no one has exhumed the body. There are a lot of questions."
Officials discovered the notorious drug lord was still alive Sunday and planned to arrest him.
Instead, Gonzalez opened fire on the authorities, who fatally shot him in return, said Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, executive secretary of Mexico's National Public Security System.
Gonzalez was the founder of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, which began in the western Mexican state of Michoacan.