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Mexico8 July 2005

Witness of photographer’s killing offered bribe for false testimony

Juan Ramón Ochoa Hernández, an eye witness of the November 2004 murder of photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, has alleged that he was offered 5,000 pesos (about 400 euros) by municipal police director Abel Enríquez Zavala and María Isela Machado Vélez to accuse two brothers, Ulises and Abraham Ernesto Sedano Ornelas, of carrying out the murder. Enríquez Zavala was arrested on the night of 3 July on suspicion of ordering the killing.

Other disturbing facts have emerged, including Enríquez Zavala’s belated arrival at the murder scene and the fact that all of the city’s police officers were assigned to tasks outside of the city on the night of the murder. All in all, there is now a degree of confusion about the suspected roles played by Enríquez Zavala and Antonio Frausto Ocampo, a drug cartel hit man with whom he has been linked.

05.07.05 - Former police chief arrested for murder of Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández

Abel Enríquez Zavala, the former head of municipal police in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, was arrested on the night of 3 July on suspicion of ordering the 28 November murder of photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández of the daily newspaper El Debate. Enríquez Zavala was public security director for the city of Escuinapa at the time of the murder, having been suspended from his previous position four months before. He has been linked to Antonio Frausto Ocampo, a hit man working for the Sinaloa drug cartel who allegedly carried out the Rodríguez killing.

16.12.04 - Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández’s killer identified

A report in the daily La Crónica de Hoy on 3 December said the police have identified the presumed killer of El Debate photographer Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, who was gunned down on 28 November in Escuinapa, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa. The killer is said to be Antonio Frausto Ocampo, an alleged hit man for the Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Ismael El Mayo Zambada. The police are also reportedly looking for two brothers, Doroteo and Manuel Ulises Cedano Ornelas, who are suspected of participating in the killing. A third brother, Abraham Cedano Ornelas, 20, has already been arrested.

The police found the jeep allegedly used by the killers in a place owned by Frausto Ocampo. The murder weapons has also reportedly been identified. Initial findings suggest that Rodríguez was killed because of his work as press photographer. In an article published on 3 December, journalist Jesús Blancornelas said Rodríguez is believed to have taken photos that show former police chief Abel Enrique Zavala in the company of Frausto Ocampo at a party on 20 November.

03.12.2004 - News photographer gunned down in front of family in restaurant

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the slaying of Gregorio Rodríguez Hernández, a photographer with the daily El Debate in Escuinapa, in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, who was gunned down on 28 November while dining in a restaurant with his wife and two children.

"In view of the increasing violence in Mexico, especially against the press, all aspects of this murder must be investigated thoroughly including the possibility that it was linked to the victim’s work as a journalist," the organisation said in a letter to Sinaloa governor Juan S. Millán, asking to be kept informed of the investigation’s progress.

Some witnesses said the killers arrived on foot and shot Rodríguez at point-blank range before making off. Hit in the head, neck and chest, he died immediately. Other accounts referred to two individuals using a pickup. The newspaper said one of the presumed killers had already been identified.

Rodríguez had various local beats, including sport, society and crime. El Debate news editor Juan Carlos Ramírez said the killing might have been linked to a brief published on 24 November about a physical attack by two suspected drug traffickers on a doctor who refused to treat an injured person they brought to his surgery. But Ramírez stressed that he did not want to speculate, and that the gunmen could have killed the wrong man.

Editor Laura Bejar added that Rodríguez was often asked to take photos of violence linked to drug trafficking.

None of El Debate’s reporters had received threats, but the newspaper had requested police protection for two journalists working in Escuinapa. With 25 murders in the past four months, Sinaloa is one of Mexico’s most violent states.

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