Veteran journalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel climbed into his truck Monday, just after lunch, heading out to cover yet another violent crime in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Moments later, he was shot dead in his driveway.
Hiram Sánchez Zamora, chief prosecutor for central Baja California, said Tuesday a 9mm handgun used to kill Martínez had been used in five other violent crimes in the Sanchez Taboada area of Tijuana since 2020.
That and the location of the victim’s gunshot wounds — one in the head and two in the chest — might point to a professional assassin. Law enforcement officials were also investigating reports of a possible dispute with one of his many neighbors, the prosecutor said.
Sánchez revealed some details of the investigation at a news conference Tuesday morning, saying state investigators were exploring all possible explanations for the shooting.
“We have not ruled out any line of investigation,” said Sánchez.
Meanwhile, dozens of soldiers with the National Guard and the Mexican Army guarded state investigators as they searched nearby homes in the Camino Verde neighborhood where Martínez lived.
Sánchez said investigators had not yet recovered or searched Martínez’s cell phone, but he wasn’t certain whether a family member had the phone. Three shell casings were recovered by forensic investigators at the crime scene on Monday afternoon.
The Tijuana-based press guild Yo Sí Soy Periodista (which translates in English as Yes, I AM a journalist) had expressed concern for Martínez’s safety just a month prior to the shooting when a man threatened the 49-year-old photographer online. That man accused Martínez of running Facebook pages that exposed criminals with ties to organized crime.
Martínez was in the process of seeking government protection through the Federal Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, an agency formed in 2012 to address Mexico’s rising violence against activists and reporters.
The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) of Mexico on Tuesday condemned the fatal attack.
“The CNDH repudiates the murder of photojournalist Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel and calls on the competent authorities so that, within the framework of their powers, they carry out the pertinent investigations until they find the persons responsible,” the agency said in a written statement.
Baja California’s Human Rights Commission released a statement saying “any attack on journalists constitutes an attack on freedom of expression and the right of a society to be informed.”
Martínez, who had more than 20 years of experience working as a professional journalist covering crime, had collaborated with Baja California news agencies such as Semanario Zeta, Cadena Noticias, La Jornada Baja California and Punto Norte. He also worked with international media outlets, including the BBC, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and The San Diego Union Tribune.