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A California man is charged with attempted murder of "an internationally protected person" in last week's broad-daylight shooting of a U.S. consular officer in Mexico, authorities said Tuesday.
Zia Zafar, 31, of Chino Hills, California, was deported to the United States and charged Monday, the Justice Department said. He made his initial court appearance Tuesday and was ordered held pending a detention hearing Friday in federal court in Virginia.
In an affidavit attached to the criminal complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, the FBI identified the victim as Christopher Ashcroft, a vice consul at the U.S. consular office in Guadalajara —although it was still unclear what motivated what Secretary of State John Kerry has called a "heinous attack."
Because he has diplomatic status, Ashcroft is considered an internationally protected person working as an agent of the U.S. government, which is why the case was transferred to the U.S. courts.
Ashcroft told investigators that as he was leaving his gym next to a Guadalajara shopping center early Friday evening, a man wearing what appeared to be blue medical scrubs and a wig started following him to his vehicle.
Ashcroft managed to lose the man and make it to his vehicle — only to have the man shoot him in the chest as exited the parking lot, according to the affidavit. Ashcroft remains in a Guadalajara hospital, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
Other than the disguise, the gunman made few efforts to hide his act, which was recorded on numerous security cameras, the FBI said. Photos attached to the affidavit show the gunman before, after and even during the shooting, which Mexican authorities called a "cunning and cowardly attack."
Zafar was identified as the suspect after he was recorded on video Saturday paying for a purchase at a local Starbucks using a credit card, which bore his real name, the FBI said. He was in Mexico on a student visa and lived in Guadalajara, according to the affidavit.
The FBI made no mention of a possible motive for the shooting. No attorney for Zafar is listed in court documents.