State authorities on the morning of October 6, 2017, found photographer Edgar Daniel Esqueda Castro dead near the airport in the city of San Luis Potosí, a spokesperson from the state attorney general’s office, Iván Ojeda, told CPJ. His body had three gunshot wounds, the office said.
Federico Garza, the state attorney general, told CPJ on October 19, 2017, that the gunshots were the cause of Esqueda Castro’s death, and that the journalist’s body showed signs of torture.
On October 20, 2017, Esqueda Castro’s mother, Verónica Castro, and his widow, Xitlali Ramírez, told CPJ that armed men broke into the home the three shared in San Luis Potosí in the early morning of October 5, 2017. The men identified themselves as policias ministeriales (state investigative police), but were dressed in civilian clothing, according to Ramírez.
Ramírez said the group of men, armed with pistols and at least one automatic rifle, broke the window of the front door of the home and stormed into the room where she and her husband were asleep. The attackers then collected the couple’s cellphones and took Esqueda Castro away at gunpoint.
The state’s attorney general, Federico Garza, told CPJ on October 19, 2017 that the authorities are investigating the murder, and that the victim’s work as a journalist is one of the lines of investigation. He said there was no arrest warrant against Esqueda Castro.
Ricardo Sánchez Pérez del Pozo, the federal special prosecutor for crimes committed against freedom of expression, told CPJ on October 7, 2017, that his agency had opened a separate investigation.
Esqueda Castro worked as a freelance photographer for the local news websites Metropoli San Luis and Vox Populi, and edited a personal website, Infórmate San Luis. According to Esqueda Castro’s editor at Vox Populi, Gerardo Guillermo Almendariz, Esqueda mostly covered society events, as well as crime stories. He was also a professional rescue worker, his wife and colleagues Gerardo Almendariz and Carlos Garrigós, both of Vox Pópuli told CPJ.
In the months prior to his death, local police had threatened Esqueda Castro while he was reporting, according to both the journalist’s wife and Guillermo Almendariz. On July 13, 2017, police officers threatened Esqueda Castro verbally, took pictures of his identification card, which included his address, and told him they were watching his home.
Separately, several police officers on July 4, 2017, beat Esqueda Castro and threatened to take his camera while the journalist was photographing a shootout scene. Esqueda Castro reported both incidents to state authorities, and filed a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission, which confirmed both incidents to CPJ on October 20, 2017. The human rights commission said it issued a recommendation to state authorities that investigative police should stop harassing the journalist, and state authorities accepted the recommendation.
In a statement released on October 6, 2017, the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, a government body that provides protective measures to reporters under threat of violence, confirmed the threats against Esqueda Castro, and stated that it had offered him protective measures. According to the group, Esqueda Castro refused protection, and said that the journalist had not reported any further threats to the mechanism after the July incidents.
In the October 20 interview, the journalist’s family confirmed to CPJ that Esqueda Castro had not enrolled in a protection scheme.