Dominican radio murder suspect dies in police chase

The coffin of Dominican journalist Leonidas Martinez is carried on a truck along the streets of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic on Feb 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SANTO DOMINGO (AFP) - A man accused of shooting dead two journalists live on air in the Dominican Republic died during a shootout with police, the authorities said Thursday (Feb 16), in what they called a suicide.

Police were chasing Jose Rodriguez because they suspected him of shooting dead 103.5 FM station director Leonidas Martinez and presenter Luis Manuel Medina on Tuesday.

Rodriguez, 59, "died last night from a shot to the head which he inflicted himself with a pistol he was carrying," a police statement said on Thursday.

Rodriguez had shot at police as they pursued him before turning the gun on himself, it said.

However, the president of the Dominican College of Journalists, Olivo de Leon, called the police statement into question, saying it contradicted earlier claims that officers had shot Rodriguez.

Leon complained that Rodriguez's death made it difficult to identify other possible suspects linked to the killing of the journalists.

Police said earlier that they were questioning dozens of other people about the attack at the radio station in San Pedro de Macoris, east of the capital Santo Domingo.

In a video of the broadcast, streamed on Facebook, gunfire is heard as Medina reads the news and a woman's voice is heard calling "Shots, shots!" Medina was presenting the influential investigative news show "Milenio Caliente," or "Hot Millennium," on Tuesday morning.

His sister Magally Medina said he had been investigating a local company's alleged pollution of a lake.

Media rights groups condemned the killings.

The Caribbean nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a popular beach destination for foreign tourists.

Reporters Without Borders says journalists who tackle corruption and drug trafficking in the Dominican Republic often face attacks.

Blas Olivo, press director of the Dominican Agribusiness Association, was found murdered that year, the media rights watchdog noted.

A television cameraman was fatally shot in broad daylight in 2014 and a newspaper reporter shot days before that.

Other journalists have said they were victims of hate campaigns after speaking up for the citizenship rights of Haitians born in the Dominican Republic.

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