At the time, the 2007 South American Footballer of the Year was in his fourth season with Club América and had gotten off to a strong start, with 18 goals in 24 matches. He was enjoying a night out with friends and family at the Bar Bar nightclub when, at approximately 5:00 am, he was shot by José Balderas Garza, later identified as a Mexican drug lord. According to some witnesses, including Cabañas's wife, the assault began as a robbery, while others claimed the two men had been involved in a heated exchange of words.
He was rushed to the hospital and remained in intensive care until early February, with doctors saying his survival had defied overwhelming odds. His career, however, appeared to be over.
Then, in late 2011, he appeared in a testimonial match held in his honor between América and the Paraguayan national team. Then, in January 2012, he signed a contract with his former club 12 de Octubre, now in the Paraguayan third division.