US consular officer in Mexico shot while sitting in his car; FBI offering $20K reward

Published on Monday, 9 January 2017 07:46 - Written by Amy B Wang and Joshua Partlow, The Washington Post

A U.S. consular officer in Mexico was shot in his car Friday evening, and the FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the identification of the shooting suspect.

Surveillance video released by the Consulate General in Guadalajara showed a man in a purple shirt, dark pants and white shoes waiting near a garage Friday evening as a black vehicle pulls up to the exit gate.

In the video, the man in the purple shirt points a gun at the driver and fires once, then runs away. The car lurches forward, then stops, as several people begin rushing toward the driver.

The consulate also released other videos, both time-stamped around 6:15 p.m. Friday. One showed the man in the purple shirt in greater detail - and wearing dark sunglasses - as he ran behind a truck.

In another, a thinner man in red shorts and a gray tank top is shown at a garage parking payment machine. As he walks away, the man in the purple shirt follows.

The State Department confirmed Saturday that the FBI was offering a reward for information about the shooting but said it could not share additional details due to privacy considerations.

"The safety and security of our employees overseas is among our highest priorities," the department said in a statement. "We are working closely with Mexican law enforcement in this matter."

The wounded consular official in Guadalajara is Christopher Ashcraft, who is in his first posting with the State Department, according to a friend who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity to discuss the case.

Ashcraft was coming out of a gym in Guadalajara in the early evening, around 6 p.m., at the time of the shooting, the friend said.

According to the friend, an assailant reportedly asked for Ashcraft by name at the gym's reception, then followed him to his car. Ashcraft was shot while sitting inside the car, hit on the right side of his chest, said the friend.

Ashcraft is recovering well at a hospital in Guadalajara and plans to return to the United States for a time, the friend said.

"He has no idea what happened," said the friend, who has been in contact with Ashcraft since the shooting. "But it wasn't random."

While there is no indication so far about the motive of the shooting, Guadalajara is the home territory of the Nueva Generacion cartel, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the country. In recent years, the cartel has been responsible for violence targeted against Mexican soldiers and police.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico encouraged anyone who recognized the suspect in the surveillance videos to call (01-55) 5080-2000.

The State Department had already issued a travel warning for Jalisco, including Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and Lake Chapala, citing "continued instability."

"U.S. citizens should defer nonessential travel to areas that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas because of continued instability," the travel warning reads. "U.S. government personnel are prohibited from personal travel to areas of Jalisco that border Zacatecas, intercity travel after hours, and from using Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta. U.S. government personnel are authorized to use Federal toll road 15D for travel to Mexico City; however, they may not stop in the town of La Barca or Ocotlan for any reason."

In recent years, a handful of U.S. consular employees and other U.S. agents have been attacked and killed in Mexico, according to the Associated Press.

In 2014, a Mexican gang leader was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 2010 slayings in of U.S. consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton, her husband and the husband of another consulate employee as they left a children's birthday party in Ciudad Juárez, the AP reported.

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The Washington Post's Carol Morello contributed to this article. Partlow reported from Mexico City.

Authors Information:

Amy B Wang is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

Joshua Partlow is The Post’s bureau chief in Mexico. He has served previously as the bureau chief in Kabul and as a correspondent in Brazil and Iraq.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Amy B Wang, Joshua Partlow