Tortoza, 48, a photographer for the Caracas daily 2001, was shot on the afternoon of April 11 while covering violent clashes between opposition demonstrators and government supporters in the capital, Caracas. He died later that evening.
The journalist, who was carrying his camera and wearing a vest identifying him as a member of the press, was standing on a corner near Caracas City Hall when he was shot in the head at around 4 p.m. He was then taken to José María Vargas Hospital and died at around 6 p.m.
The clashes came on the third day of a nationwide strike leading to a short-lived coup that ousted President Hugo Chávez Frías on April 11. He returned to power on April 14.
Several videos made public the following week did not show conclusively where the shots that killed the journalist had come from, or who fired them, according to local press reports. However, the Caracas Metropolitan Police released a video revealing that five gunmen were on the roof of the City Hall at the time of Tortoza’s shooting.
None of the gunmen were in uniform, but two of them had on bulletproof vests. Other videos taken by amateur cameramen show more unidentified gunmen in adjacent buildings. Eyewitness accounts and videos implicate both the Venezuelan National Guard and the Caracas Metropolitan Police in the shooting.
Eurídice Ledezma, a Venezuelan journalist and political analyst, told CPJ that Tortoza was shot by a gunman she saw firing from the roof of City Hall.
Tortoza, a veteran photographer, had worked for 2001 since 1991. On April 25, about 300 reporters, photographers, and cameramen from both the private and state media held a march to pay homage to Tortoza. The journalists, who held posters with Tortoza’s picture, demanded that those responsible for his death be punished, and that journalists be allowed to do their job without fear of reprisal.
During the events of April 11, at least 15 people were killed and dozens were injured, including four journalists.
By late October, the investigation into Tortoza’s killing had stalled. According to the Venezuelan human rights organization PROVEA, there were conflicting reports as to which type of weapon had been used to shoot the journalist and from which direction the bullet came. No one has been charged with the murder.