Virginia doctor and tour guide shot dead in Belize while fly fishing during vacation
Dr. Gary Swank, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of Carilion Clinic's Cardiac Catheterization Lab, was murdered along with his tour guide
A Virginia doctor who was vacationing in Belize with his wife and three children was shot and killed. Dr. Gary Paul Swank, an interventional cardiologist and medical director of Carilion Clinic's Cardiac Catheterization Lab, was murdered along with his tour guide while fly-fishing in a lagoon west of San Pedro Town, according to WBDJ7.
The San Pedro Police responded to reports of a shooting in an area around one mile west of San Pedro at around 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 23, and first found the body of 53-year-old Mario Graniel, Swank's tour guide, inside a purple and black skiff named "Johnnie G. Graniel."
Floating near the boat, about 30 feet away in the lagoon, was the body of Swank. Both Swank and Graniel had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to their body and head. Their bodies were taken to the medical examiner in the region for postmortem examinations. A report stated that Graniel was a tour guide in the Boca del Rio area of San Pedro and that he and Swank had gone fly-fishing within the city's lagoon at around 10 a.m. that morning when another skiff passed by and its occupants fired at the pair.
Police suspect Graniel was the intended target of the shooting. The 53-year-old had called the authorities one day before his murder to report he had been inside his room on a second-floor apartment in the Boca del Rio area when shots were fired, damaging his front door. Deputies who responded to the scene found a bullet hole on top of Graniel's door but were not able to find a suspect at the time.
The police announced a day later, on June 24, that they had detained several persons for questioning in connection to the murders, and Chester Williams, the Commissioner of Police, had assigned a special task force to investigate the shootings. In a statement addressing Swank's death, the Carillion Clinic expressed its condolences. "We are heartbroken at his loss," they said. "Dr. Swank was a well-respected and well-loved colleague who, each and every day, embodied the values that we hold dear."
The death comes after the US Department of State had previously issued a Level 2 travel advisory in January and asked Americans traveling to the Central American tourist hotspot to exercise increased caution due to crime. Swank's and Graniel's murders were reportedly one of four deadly incidents across the country in a four-day period, with the pair's deaths coming just five days after a group of five fishermen were shot to death in Swallow Caye.
"So far, six months into 2019, there are 70 murders and that is not counting those people still missing … and those whose remains have yet to be identified," said John Briceno, leader of the People’s United Party. "Crime is an issue which should never be made political, it’s a problem that requires all sectors of society to fight it together."