As tourist deaths in the Dominican Republic continue to grab headlines comes word of an untimely death due west of there. The State Department had confirmed a Virginia cardiologist who was vacationing with his wife and three children was murdered in Belize on Sunday, just a day after arriving in the country.
Dr. Gary Swank and his tour guide, Mario Graniel, were found shot to death on a lagoon near San Pedro, per local police.
WDBJ7 cites a police report it saw via News5 Belize that says the men departed around 10am; 90 minutes later, police responding to a report discovered the bodies.
Graniel was allegedly in a skiff; Swank was nearby in the lagoon. Graniel’s home was reportedly fired at the previous day, and a local outlet suggests the guide might have been the target.
“My brother was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Martin Swank tells the Times.
Swank worked as medical director of Carilion Clinic’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab in Roanoke and taught internal medicine at Virginia Tech.
Chester Williams, the commissioner of police in Belize, said that Swank was a victim of circumstance.
Williams said the tour guide “had a misunderstanding with one of the notorious gang figures in San Pedro,” a probable reason why his home was shot at before the murders.
“Police detained the persons who we suspected did the shooting, waited for Mr. Graniel to give the report,” Williams said. “He never showed up to give the report. We maintain police presence in the area to protect him and the community from further shootings but we can’t follow the man everywhere he goes. He decided to go out with a tourist. We don’t have a boat to follow him and we can’t put police on every tour guide boat.”
He went on, “We did what we could have done in terms of detaining those who we believe were responsible and maintaining presence in the area where he lived. I don’t see what else we could have done.”
Superintendent Hilberto Romero, the acting head of the National Crimes Investigation Branch, said both Swank and Graniel had “multiple” gunshot injuries.
“One of the decreased was on board the vessel while the other was in the water. Both were taken out and taken to the San Pedro Polyclinic where they were pronounced dead on arrival,” Romero said.