Suspect in attack on US diplomat in Mexico brought to US

AP News
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Posted: Jan 10, 2017 5:25 PM
Suspect in attack on US diplomat in Mexico brought to US

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A California man who authorities say shot and wounded a U.S. consular officer in Mexico appeared to don a wig and stalk his target before opening fire, according to court papers.

Authorities brought Zia Zafar, 31, of Chino Hills, California, to the U.S. on Monday night to face a federal charge of attempted murder of a diplomat. Zafar made his initial appearance Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria.

A magistrate ordered Zafar held pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday and appointed the federal public defender to represent him. The public defender, Ken Troccoli, declined comment after Tuesday's brief hearing.

Surveillance video captured parts of Friday's shooting of consular officer Christopher Ashcraft, including video showing a shooter taking aim and firing a shot.

Ashcraft told authorities he noticed a man wearing blue scrubs and what appeared to be a wig who was watching and waiting for Ashcraft as he left a gym, according to an FBI affidavit filed Tuesday.

As Ashcraft got into his car and was exiting a shopping center parking garage, he was shot once in the chest, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says Mexican police recovered a pistol, a pair of sunglasses and a wig similar to the one seen in the surveillance video from Zafar's residence in Guadalajara.

The affidavit also states that Mexican officials obtained surveillance video of a person matching the description of the shooter paying for a purchase at a nearby Starbucks ahead of the shooting. The person paid with a credit card in Zafar's name, the affidavit says.

Ashcraft was still recovering from the shooting Tuesday in a Mexican medical facility, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit did not state any motive for the shooting, and prosecutors made no mention of one at Tuesday's hearing. Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on a motive.

The FBI, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, and Mexican authorities are all investigating the shooting with assistance from the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations division.

Zafar entered Mexico on a student visa and holds a U.S. passport as well as a California driver's license, according to court records.

Zafar faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The charges are filed in Virginia because Zafar was brought into the country in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Dulles International Airport is located.

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Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko in Washington contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the consular officer's last name is Ashcraft, not Ashcroft, and that the affidavit didn't mention any motive for the shooting.