Ten arrested in killing of Tijuana photojournalist

A man in sunglasses and a cap
Photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel in Tijuana in 2019.
(John Gibbins / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Ten suspects have been detained in connection with last month’s shooting death of Tijuana photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel, the top prosecutor for the state of Baja California confirmed Friday.

Atty. Gen. Ricardo Iván Carpio Sánchez said an operation was still underway early Friday when information about five of the arrests was made public by Gen. Luis Cresencio Sandoval, Mexico’s defense secretary, during President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s daily media briefing.

Martínez, who covered crime and security issues in Tijuana, was shot to death Jan. 17 outside his home as he left for work. A month earlier, he had made an official complaint about threats he’d received while working as a journalist and was in the process of seeking protection under a government program.


He also worked as a “fixer” assisting international news outlets including the BBC, as well as The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The recent killings of two journalists within a week in the northern border city of Tijuana have fanned outrage.

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Carpio said prosecutors have not ruled out Martínez’s journalistic work as a possible motive for his killing. He said investigators were trying to confirm the identities and ages of those arrested, but it has been verified that some have criminal records. Officials indicated they were linked to an organized criminal group but declined to name that organization.

The arrests were made at dawn in Tijuana, during the search of six different properties, where authorities also seized an AR-15-style rifle, a Smith & Wesson handgun, phones and drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to Carpio and Sandoval.

The houses searched were possible “home bases” for drug sales that were linked to the homicide by investigative agencies. The weapons will be tested to determine whether they were used in Martínez’s slaying or in any other documented crimes, the officials said.

The arrests were based on intelligence from a task force made up of several Mexican agencies, including the Defense Ministry, the federal prosecutor’s office, military police, the navy and Baja California authorities.

In an apparent act of revenge, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has tried to shame investigative journalist Carlos Loret de Mola.

Feb. 11, 2022

Martínez’s mother, Eglantina Esquivel, arrived at the attorney general’s office just as an afternoon news conference was ending.


“We are here trying to find out the causes, motives and reasons why this happened, why they did it, by whose orders, because this was an order,” Esquivel said, responding to news of the arrests. Martínez “didn’t kill a single spider … that’s why I want to know the cause, the motive, the reason.”

On Thursday, the day before the arrests, she had pleaded for justice for her son’s killing to Mexico’s deputy interior minister responsible for human rights.

Less than a week after Martínez’s killing, a second Tijuana journalist, Lourdes Maldonado López, was shot to death in her car in front of her home. Three suspects were arrested on Feb. 8 in connection with her killing.

Little information has been released about either investigation.