A Mexican federal judge who presided over the case of drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman was assassinated, Mexico’s office of the Attorney General confirmed.
Judge Vicente Antonio Bermúdez Zacarías, 37, was shot on the morning of Oct. 17 while he went for a morning run near his home in the municipality of Metepec in central Mexico, reported Univision.
The execution was captured on video, and shows the assailant dressed in all black approach the judge from behind before shooting him in the back of the head at point-blank range. Zacarías falls to the ground as the assassin flees the scene. Zacarías was rushed to a local clinic, where he was pronounced dead.
The Mexico News Daily reported that Zacarías became a district judge in December 2013 and served in the Fifth Tribunal for appeals and civil judgments. At the time of his death, Zacarías handled high profile cases of Mexico’s most notorious drug traffickers, including the appeals of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the leader of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel.
In July 2015, Guzman made international headlines when he escaped from a high-security Mexican prison through a tunnel dug in the showers. He was recaptured in January 2016.
The most recent escape marked the second time Guzman evaded law enforcement. In 2001, Puente Grande prison guards helped him escape the prison via a laundry basket. He was on the run for over 10 years, before he was captured in 2014.
Guzman is wanted in the United States on drug charges, having allegedly smuggled large amounts of illicit drugs into the country. Earlier this year, Zacarías ruled in favor of Guzman when he suspended U.S. extradition requests to California and Texas.
However, Zacarías had also ruled against members of Guzman’s cartel, including allowing the wiretapping of Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, a week before the kingpin was recaptured in January. Zacarías was also presiding over the case of Abigael Gonzalez Valencia, the leader of Los Cuinis cartel, reported SPDNoticias.com.
Despite spearheading dangerous assignments, Zacarías wasn’t assigned any security detail.
President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned the murder and he said the investigation into the murder is underway. Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation president Luis María Aguilar Morales also condemned the crime and called for protective measures to ensure the safety of public figures. In the last four years, 11 judges have been murdered.
Only “in an atmosphere of tranquility and security may judges reflect broadly their decisions,” said Morales, per Univision.
As of yet, there are no suspects and Guzman’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, said his client had nothing to do with the murder, reported Mexican publication Proceso.
The investigation is ongoing.