Authorities are investigating the slaying Thursday of Doug Bradley, who friends and family said was a surfing aficionado and adventurous soul. As the city's administrative services director, Bradley oversaw the budget and fiscal functions, and also served as the city treasurer.
"He was brilliant at his job. He was always positive," Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. "You couldn't have asked for a better person to work with."
Bradley died a day before his 50th birthday.
The Mexico News Daily reported that witnesses told local media that gunmen chased Bradley and shot him with a 9mm handgun during a robbery about 4 a.m. Thursday in Ixtapa. Media reports state that his body was in a parking lot in the hotel zone for four hours before police learned of his death.
The spokesman for a government security agency in the state of Guerrero released a statement Friday saying that Bradley was shot three times, and that investigators have learned that he "could have some addiction to toxic substances."
But the official, Guerrero Coordination Group spokesman Roberto Alvarez, did not immediately respond Saturday afternoon to requests for clarification on what that statement meant or what role — if any — "toxic substances" may have played in Bradley's death.
Bradley's sister called the statement "inaccurate" and said emphatically "it's not true." She said her family was told that her brother died in a botched robbery in which his cellphone and money — a few hundred dollars in pesos — were taken. Cheryl Bradley said there was nothing to the speculation circulating online that there was some sort of sinister backstory.
"He wasn't mixed up in anything," the Colorado resident said in a phone interview while in California on Saturday.
She said her older brother was "deep thinking and incredibly intelligent."
He became an avid surfer as a preteen growing up in Orange County, and his passion for the sport eventually led him to chase waves around the world, from Mexico and Central America to Thailand and Australia.
"He loved life," she said. "He always looked to the positives. He saw the beauty in life. Everybody loved him. He always had a smile."
Bradley worked in Imperial Beach, but lived in Playas de Tijuana in an oceanfront condo — so he could surf every day, his sister said.
Both she and her brother's longtime friend C.J. Petersen said Bradley was considering buying beachfront property on the southern Mexican coast with an eye toward his retirement.
Bradley, who had a master's degree in business administration, had been working with a real estate agent in the Ixtapa area and planned to meet up with her Thursday to look at sites.
Petersen said the agent told him that, after Bradley was a no-show, she saw news of his death and reached out to his family and friends.
Petersen said he was sad and angry at what he called "such a senseless ending."
"All Doug wanted was his life," he said. "He was scared, he was alone and they left him in that street for four hours."
Petersen described Bradley as "always smiling, always in a good mood, always jubilant," and said it would be easier to accept his death if it had come as the result of a surfing accident.
"He loved to be in that ocean," Petersen said of his close friend. "That was his freedom."
Doug Bradley had married his high school sweetheart. They divorced a few years ago but remained close friends, Petersen said. They had no children.