At about 9:15 a.m. on June 29, 2022, unidentified attackers shot and killed journalist Antonio de la Cruz near his home in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, according to news reports and a statement and press conference by the Tamaulipas state prosecutor’s office.
In that press conference, prosecutor Irving Barrios said that de la Cruz, a reporter for the newspaper Expreso, was shot multiple times while in a car with his daughter. De la Cruz died at the scene and his daughter, who was hit with at least one bullet, underwent emergency surgery, Barrios said. She died on July 1 of her injuries, according to news reports.
The attackers fled the scene leaving behind at least four .40 caliber bullet casings, Barrios said; he did not provide any information about the suspected identities of the attackers.
The office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes Committed Against Freedom of Expression said in a statement that it had opened an investigation into the killing.
De la Cruz worked as a reporter for Expreso for over two decades, the newspaper said in an obituary.
A friend and colleague at the newspaper, who spoke to CPJ on the condition that their name not be disclosed due to safety concerns, said that de la Cruz covered the environment and agriculture for Expreso and did not report on crime, security, or politics. A number of posts on Expreso’s Facebook page carry de la Cruz’s byline, and mainly focus on climate, agriculture, and food prices.
The colleague told CPJ that the staff of Expreso were unaware of any threats against the reporter’s life or any recent threats against the newspaper.
“It took us all by surprise,” the colleague said, adding that de la Cruz was “good-natured, very reserved, and private.”
The colleague noted that de la Cruz was active on Twitter, where he had about 10,000 followers and was often critical of the administration of Tamaulipas governor Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, as well as municipal politicians in the state.
An official with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which provides protection programs for journalists, told CPJ that de la Cruz had not been incorporated into a federal protection program. The official asked not to be named, as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
On August 18, 2022, federal undersecretary for Public Security Ricardo Mejía said during a press briefing in Mexico City that the office of the Federal Special Prosecutor for Attention to Crimes committed against Freedom of Expression had taken over the case and that “important progress” in the investigation had been made. He said that he was unable to provide more details, so as to “not alert the suspects.”
CPJ repeatedly called the special prosecutor’s office for comment, but no one answered.
On December 20, 2018, a human head was left in an icebox outside Expreso’s offices, accompanied by a message threatening local journalists. In 2012, a car bomb exploded near the offices of the newspaper.