TIJUANA (Border Report) — A Baja California state government official has announced the arrest of a suspect in connection with the murder of Tijuana photojournalist Margarito Martínez, who was shot and killed earlier this week outside his home.
Initial reports stated a gunman walked up to Martínez’s car and shot him through the driver’s side window striking him once in the head and twice in the upper chest.
“This arrest took place early this morning,” said Catalino Zavala Márquez, Baja California’s Secretary of State. “I can’t tell you more than that, most of the information will have to come from the attorney general’s office.”
Zavala Márquez did say Martínez’s family is being offered protection and security detail, but he wouldn’t specify whether they have received threats or felt their lives are in danger.
Meantime, Baja California State Attorney General Hiram Sánchez Zamora has not mentioned the arrest but has stated the bulk of the investigation could be conducted by his counterpart in Mexico City.
He then added the gun used to kill Martínez has been used in five other murders in the city since 2020.
“Casings from a 9 mm handgun were recovered from the scene, we can trace them and concur the same gun was used in this homicide,” Sánchez Zamora said.
Fingerprints have been pulled from Martínez’s car but it hasn’t been determined if they belong to the shooter, Sánchez Zamora said.
Sonya de Anda, a reporter in northern Baja California and head of an advocacy group for journalists, reported that Martínez last month sought protection from state and local agencies after he was reportedly threatened for taking pictures of men thought to be involved in drug cartels.
De Anda said his concerns were turned over to the federal government.
“Margarito was funneled to a federal database of journalists who have been threatened, this took place on December 13,” she said. “He received paperwork to fill out to be officially placed on a list for possible protection, but he never completed the documents.”
According to this federal agency, if documents aren’t returned within a month, the complaint is discarded and erased from the system.
Martínez had worked the “police beat” for 15 years as a photojournalist, documenting the region’s persistent violence and high homicide rate.
He worked for various publications including Zeta, a weekly newspaper known for its scathing reports about crime, drug cartels and politicians.
Martínez had the reputation for always being the first at a crime scene and for not being afraid to drive through desolate areas and canyons known as havens for criminals.
El País reporter Beatriz Guillen said Martínez “owned the night.”
“Margarito had a very friendly disposition, always relaxed, but always serious when it came time to do his job,” said Guillermo Arias, another photojournalist working in Tijuana who described a time when Martínez was hired by a French production company to train actors for a Netflix series about journalism.
“He worked hard and fought hard to earn that respect,” said Gabriela Martínez, reporter in Tijuana.
The 49-year-old Margarito Martínez leaves behind his wife, Elena, and daughter Johana.
“As reporters, we’re so used to the violence, especially living and working in a city like Tijuana, every day we’re dealing with homicides, but this is personally a big blow,” said Ines Garcia, who was Martínez’s editor.
Garcia and many others will gather in Tijuana this Friday evening for a vigil in Martínez’s honor.