Sunday, 8 January 2017

Police arrest suspect in the 'direct attack' on a US consular official shot in Mexico

Mexico Guadalajara consulate shooting suspect

A suspect in the shooting of a US consular official in the Mexican city of Guadalajara was arrested on Sunday, the state prosecutor's office said.

The consular official, later identified by a Mexican security official speaking on condition of anonymity as Christopher Ashcraft, was shot by a gunman on Friday as he was leaving a city parking lot.

The Jalisco state prosecutor said on Twitter that specialized agents made the arrest, but did not provide further details including the name of the suspect or any motive.

"The detention of the aggressor against the consular agent has been achieved," Eduardo Almaguer, attorney general for Jalisco, the state where Guadalajara is located, said on Sunday morning. "The suspect has been handed over to Mexico’s federal attorney general’s office."

Attacks are diplomatic personnel are considered federal crimes in Mexico. Almaguer did not provide any further details, but a source in the Guadalajara police told The Guardian that the suspect in custody was 31-year-old Zafar Zia, a US citizen of Indian origin.

The source said Zia was arrested during a joint operation involving Jalisco state officials, the FBI, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mexico Guadalajara consulate shooting suspect

After the shooting the FBI offered a $20,000 reward for information that helped identify the shooter. Another source said after the attack that Mexican authorities found DEA credentials in Ashcraft's name, though US consulate officials declined to comment on his duties there.

According to The Guardian, at the time of arrest, Zia had a .380 caliber pistol in his waistband, and authorities seized a Honda Accord with California license plates and a wig and sunglasses that may match those seen in footage of the shooting. They also recovered 16 Ziploc bags containing 336 grams of a substance believed to be marijuana.

US consulate Mexico Guadalajara shooting suspect

Almaguer, the Jalisco state prosecutor, said the shooting appeared to be a "direct attack."

According to a friend of Ashcraft, the shooter asked for him by name at the reception desk of the gym he was in before being shot.

Security-camera footage shows the shooter at the desk and later shows him following Ashcraft to the parking garage.

A video posted online by the consulate in Guadalajara also shows the shooter appearing to wait for the official's car to pull up to a parking-lot barrier before shooting directly at the driver and fleeing.

Ashcraft was in stable condition receiving care at a local hospital and under protection. He was shot once in the upper right chest, according to various sources.

"U.S citizens in the Guadalajara area are urged to restrict their movements outside their homes and places of work to those truly essential," The US Embassy in Mexico said in a message to US citizens in the country after the attack.

"They should also take care not to fall into predictable patterns for those movements that are essential.  They should vary the times and routes of their movements," the message added, it what may have been a reference to the apparent tracking of Ashcraft by his assailant.

Mexico Guadalajara consulate shooting

Guadalajara is Mexico's second-largest city, and parts of Jalisco state have often seen violence perpetrated by rival drug gangs.

The powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel is based in the state and has taken part in fighting on the state's southern border. The alleged leader of the once powerful Beltran Leyva Organization cartel was captured in a Guadalajara suburb in mid-December.

"On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to thank the Government of Mexico for their swift and decisive arrest of a suspect in the heinous attack against our Foreign Service Officer colleague in Guadalajara, Mexico," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Sunday. "My thoughts and prayers remain with this officer and his family during this difficult time. I wish him a speedy recovery."

(Reporting for Reuters by David Alire Garcia; editing by Mary Milliken)

SEE ALSO: 'It wasn't random': The FBI was offering $20,000 for information on the shooting of a US consular official in Mexico

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