Man Held in Slaying of Tijuana Columnist

Times Staff Writer

Police here Saturday announced the arrest of a race track security guard in the slaying of Hector (Gato) Felix Miranda, the satirical newspaper columnist who was shot to death last month as he drove to work.

Police identified the suspect Saturday night as Victoriano Medina Moreno, a security guard at the Agua Caliente race track and a former Baja California state police officer who was fired from the force for “unspecified irregularities.”

Police are also seeking Antonio Vera Palestina, director of security at Agua Caliente, who is suspected of having driven the getaway car in the April 20 shotgun killing, police said.


Admission Reported

Medina, who is in his 40s, was arrested late Friday or early Saturday in Tijuana, said Miguel Ruvalcaba, an officer of the Baja California judicial state police.

“We’re sure he did the killing,” Ruvalcaba said Saturday night as a score of reporters from the United States and Mexico gathered at the state police headquarters here seeking information on the case.

Police said Medina has admitted killing Felix in response to articles Felix wrote about him. The contents of the articles were not immediately disclosed.

Authorities said they have recovered the getaway car and expect to recover the gun used in the killing, which Medina told them is at the race track.

The death of Felix triggered outrage among journalists and others on both sides of the border and also has sparked a heated political controversy in the border state of Baja California, where thousands of protesters have demanded action from the administration of Gov. Xicotencatl Leyva Mortera.

J. Jesus Blancornelas, who co-founded and co-edited the firebrand weekly Zeta with Felix, said Saturday night that he is satisfied with the police effort so far in connection with the case. However, Blancornelas, who has vowed to pursue the matter until it is thoroughly resolved, declined further comment until more details of the arrest are made public.

The arrest is likely to fuel further speculation about the slaying. The fact that the suspect worked at the race track has raised eyebrows here, as the track has figured prominently in various published accounts regarding the murder.

After Felix’s death, Zeta published a list of suspects that included the names of Jorge Hank Rhon, president of Caliente and one of the wealthiest men in Tijuana, and Alberto Murguia, a close associate. Both were frequent targets in Felix’s acerbic column, particularly recent ones. However, authorities said Saturday that neither man is a suspect in the case.

The arrest of Medina culminates an intensive investigation that began immediately after the shooting. More than 50 agents from throughout Baja California participated. About a dozen people were reportedly taken in for questioning. Leyva has vowed to put all the government’s efforts behind the investigation.

The murder also prompted outrage among Tijuana residents. “Who killed Gato Felix?” has become a kind of political rallying cry here.

Felix’s barbed column poked fun at everyone from the president to the man on the street, but it focused particularly on officials and other power brokers. It was a journalistic institution here for more than a decade, titillating readers with its double entendres, puns, coded references and other devices.

Critics, however, have attacked the column as a mean-spirited recitation of rumors, slander and malicious gossip.

“We all lament and condemn the killing of Hector Felix,” said Miguel Angel Torres, chief spokesman for Leyva, “but what he wrote was hardly journalism.”

In what were some of the largest protests here in recent years, protesters called on the governor to ensure that an impartial and thorough investigation was conducted of the slaying. In fact, Felix’s wake and official farewell cortege to the airport turned into a political protest against Leyva, one of Felix’s most frequent targets. Felix often derided the governor for his purported drinking habits.