Chris Cleave, a British businessman and real estate agent, was shot dead in Mexico over the weekend after being targeted by a local gang. According to The Guardian, he was threatened by the unknown assailants earlier in the week, prior to the ambush on a highway near Playa del Carmen.
Two gunmen allegedly opened fire on the vehicle, killing the 54-year-old and injuring his daughter, who is recovering with non-life-threatening injuries.
Authorities are investigating what happened that led to the attack in broad daylight, as they piece together any possible connection between the killers and the British real estate agent.
“This was not a random shooting, but a targeted attack,” law enforcement told the Daily Mail. “He was chosen to be murdered.”
According to police, investigators found a message left for a nearby restaurant that insinuated retaliation after the eatery refused to let the gang sell drugs inside.
“We are coming for you,” the note said, according to the Daily Mail, “Also for you Cris [sic], with the red Audi.”
Chris Cleave, who was gunned down driving in his red Audi, had been living in Mexico near Cancun since 2013. Though mentioned in the note, law enforcement believes that he was not part of the drug trade.
“We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Mexico and are in touch with the Mexican police/local authorities,” the British Embassy announced.
Reports from police have only identified Jose N., 30, and Lenin N., 18, as possible gunmen in the roadside attack. The two have been arrested, according to The Independent, and the “weapon that was used has been recovered.”
Investigators are searching for a motive behind the deadly assault, as well as how the British realtor became embroiled in the reported beef between the local gang and the nearby restaurant.
“I am shocked, gutted and deeply disturbed by this horrible, horrible news,” a friend, Kristen Amrhein, wrote on Chris Cleave’s Facebook page over the weekend.
“You were the highlights of my trip to Playa and I will miss you, my friend,” she continued. “I always looked forward to our funny exchanges and it was my privilege to have known you. My deepest condolences to your family and your dearest, Chloe.”
Many tributes and condolences poured in on Chris Cleave’s Facebook page on Sunday, celebrating him as a “true friend” and a “great dad.” His last post before his death came just three days before the attack, during his daughter’s birthday.
His daughter, who suffered only minor injuries, should make a full recovery.
“You were the most generous and helpful person I know, always making time for everyone,” said Sara Jones, a friend. “You made my life happier, easier and more joyful every day I knew you.”
“I will miss our cups of tea, glasses of wine, British jokes, and endless fun conversations,” she continued. “Playa is mourning the loss of a truly great man today, who didn’t deserve to be taken so soon.”
After a spike in violence in the area, the Mexican government deployed the National Guard last year to crack down on organized crime.
Just this past January, two Canadians were shot and killed in a hotel in Playa del Carmen. It was reported at the time that they were involved with illegal activity in nearby Quintana Roo, and had multiple debts lined up from international drug and weapons traffickers.
“We still can’t believe what has happened to Chris,” his brother, Nick Cleave, told The Sun. “We are all just trying to come to terms with his death.”