EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A Juarez news photographer was shot to death inside his vehicle early Thursday, Chihuahua state authorities confirmed.
The shooting took place around 2 a.m. on the streets of a neighborhood in West Juarez. Residents reported hearing up to 10 gunshots along Calle Chiapas, where a gray Hyundai crashed against parked vehicles, per multiple local news media reports.
Chihuahua Deputy Attorney General Carlos Manuel Salas confirmed the victim was Ismael Villagomez Tapia, a photojournalist for El Heraldo de Juarez newspaper.
Salas said he assigned a team of state investigators to look into the murder. He said a bullet went through the journalist’s left eye and into his skull.
Villagomez on Wednesday covered a news assignment in the town of Villa Ahumada, about 80 miles south of Juarez, and returned to Juarez in the evening to turn in his company vehicle and file an expense report, said Jaime Nuñez, news director for El Heraldo.
“This is very serious and, of course, it affects all of us. We cannot do our job feeling safe because of the violence,” he added.
Villagomez, known by his peers as “El Tiger,” moonlighted as an Uber driver after work. Nuñez said the newspaper is waiting to hear from authorities regarding the circumstances of the death.
Salas said Villagomez was working his job as a ride-share driver at the time of the attack, but that “a journalist is always a journalist regardless of the time of day, so we are not discounting any (possible) motive.”
Villagomez’s coworkers on Thursday demanded a thorough investigation of the fatal shooting.
“We believe this should not happen again and, above all, must be solved,” said Francisco Ortiz, deputy director of El Heraldo. “We have no indication here at El Heraldo that our coworker Ismael Villagomez had received any threats or was involved in any situation that could be related to this event.”
Juarez last year recorded more than 1,100 homicides; the journalist’s death brings the total to 1,131 so far this year.
Nuñez said the streets of Juarez are very dangerous at night. Some working-class neighborhoods known as “colonias populares” don’t have lighting on their streets and have high crime rates.
Police say most of the homicides are drug-related, though some victims are innocents caught in the crossfire and, according to mothers of some disappeared, young men and women who wanted to consume drugs, not sell them.
International watchdog groups label Mexico as one of the most dangerous for journalists, with 13 killed last year. El Universal, a leading Mexico City daily, says at least seven journalists have been killed in Mexico this year.