Mexican Photojournalist Ismael Villagómez Murdered Hours After Leaving Newsroom in Juárez

noviembre 17, 2023
Photo: Courtesy / La Verdad

Ismael Villagómez Tapia was a photojournalist in Ciudad Juárez for 24 years. His last journalistic coverage for El Heraldo de Juárez occurred in Ahumada, Chihuahua. He was murdered the next day after leaving the newsroom.

By Marco Antonio López / La Verdad
Translation: Vianey Alderete Contreras


Photojournalist Ismael Villagómez Tapia was murdered early this Thursday in Ciudad Juárez. His 24-year journalistic career began in 1999, when he was only 19 years old, and worked for El Norte newspaper in Ciudad Juárez. 

Villagómez Tapia was mortally wounded while working an additional job as a driver for the rideshare company InDrive after his work day at El Heraldo de Juárez, part of the Mexican Editorial Organization (OEM.).

Ismael left the newspaper office around six in the afternoon after discussing his reporting in Ahumada, Chihuahua, with El Heraldo de Juárez’s deputy director, Ramón Ortiz. He showed the editor the photos taken that day and said he felt fine about reporting in the city about 125 kilometers south of Ciudad Juárez. Then they said goodbye. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Ortiz told him and left the newsroom. That was the last time Ortiz saw Villagómez Tapia.

Photography: Courtesy

A 911 call to report a gunshot at the intersection of Article 27 and Sinaloa streets in the Francisco Sarabia neighborhood, folio 0705780133, was made at 1:53 a.m. on November 16. A complaint followed.

Seven minutes later, City agents Juárez Macías and Gutiérrez Martínez arrived aboard Unit 110 of the Municipal Public Security Secretariat.

At the crime scene, Ismael’s body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in a gray Hyundai Elantra that had collided with a parked car.

The 9-millimeter bullet entered through the back of the head and exited through an eyeball, hit the front window, and fell inside the vehicle, according to a report from the prosecutor of North Juárez, Carlos Manuel Salas.

The authorities did not find Ismael’s cell phone inside the car, and his wallet was in the driver’s side door compartment, according to Salas. The photojournalist was working as a driver at the time of the attack.

Villagómez Tapia borrowed his nephew’s car for his shifts driving for the rideshare company, a job he did for about six months after his newspaper shift as an additional source of income. He planned to save money and repair the vehicle he used for this reporting, according to one of his relatives.

“He didn’t tell me about it directly. He didn’t inform me. But he did tell others that when he left [the newsroom,] he worked for an app in the evenings. I did not know until now that it was InDrive; his family informed the Prosecutor’s Office. He did work on the platform to supplement his income,” said Ortiz.

The case will be turned over to the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes against Freedom of Expression due to a line of investigation that must follow his work as a journalist and even his recent coverage in Ahumada, according to Salas.

“To cover Villa Ahumada, he accompanied our colleague Alejandra Carrión to that municipality to cover the events of the City Council, what the municipal government is doing, and returned at around 5:30 in the afternoon,” said Ortiz.

However, he mentioned that they had no reports of any threats or altercations, as they have not had since he took office three years ago.

“The position of the newspaper is to demand justice for Ismael, a call for justice that implies the full clarification of the facts, including the motive and the reason or cause, that the person or persons who participated in taking the life of the companion had. First of all, because he is a human, and secondly, because he is a member of the [journalists] alliance, and we do not believe that the death of the journalists should remain unclarified. So, suppose his death had nothing to do with his journalistic performance, which is what we believe from the outset. In that case, we do, however, demand that it be clarified why they deprived him of his life, who they were, that they are proceeding with his arrest, his prosecution and conviction, so that he can serve a sentence,” said Ortiz.

Villagómez Tapia joined El Heraldo de Juárez on August 26, 2021, as one of the newspaper’s three photographers covering immigration, state government, and finances. He arrived at the newsroom at 8 a.m. sharp daily, but on Thursday, November 16, he never arrived. Just a few hours earlier, at around 2:00 am, he was still working as a driver.

Read our Juárez news coverage in English here.

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