Zia Zafar is the California man who shot, and tried to kill, a US diplomat in Mexico last year. Zafar, a 32 year old US citizen, put on a wig and glasses before he stalked, and eventually shot, the vice consul at the US Consulate in Guadalajara. The consul, Christopher Ashcraft, survived the attack, which happened outside the parking lot of a gym last January.
Zafar, who was studying in Guadalajara at the time of the attack, has never denied that he tried to kill Ashcraft. He had initially planned to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. But today, the Chino Hills native entered a guilty plea in US District Court in Alexandria.
Zafar told the court, “I am guilty of whatever I did.” His lawyer said that two doctors would testify at his trial about his mental health issues.
The prosecution said that Zafar did not know Christopher Ashcraft personally. They claim that Zafar knew that Ashcraft worked for the US consulate, and had shot him simply because Ashcraft “represented the United States.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Zafar’s Entire Crime Was Caught on Film
Zafar went to the trouble of disguising himself before he shot Ashcraft. He put on a set of scrubs, a wig, and dark sunglasses. But his whole crime was caught on a surveillance camera.
The security video from the night of the attack shows a man in scrubs, a wig, and sunglasses following Ashcraft as he leaves his gym and pays for his parking. The disguised man is later seen walking back and forth. One of his hands is in his pocket.
Finally, as Ashcraft’s car pulls out of the garage, the man fires into Ashcraft’s car and runs away.
Ashcraft was hit in the chest. He was taken to a hospital and he survived. But the Washington Post reports that the bullet from Zafar’s gun is still lodged in his spine, and there is shrapnel in his pectoral muscle.
2. Zafar Was In Guadalajara Studying to Become a Doctor. He Wore Purple Scrubs When He Attacked Ashcraft.
ABC’s Eyewitness news reported that Zafar had been living in Mexico for the past four years, studying to become a doctor at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara. They said that Zafar had grown up in the affluent Chino Hills neighborhood not far from Los Angeles, and that neighbors were stunned to learn about his case.
Zafar disguised himself in purple scrubs, a wig, and glasses before staking out Christopher Ashcraft near a gym parking lot. However, Zafar’s whole crime was caught on video. News reports are not very clear about how, exactly, Zafar was identified. But the FBI offered an award of 20,000 dollars for the capture of the man who had shot Ashcraft. A manhunt was immediately launched, in which the Mexican authorities cooperated with the FBI, and some 48 hours later, Zafar was captured and arrested.
3. Zafar, A US Citizen Originally from India, Was Angry About a Visa Issue
A spokesperson at the Jalisco State Prosecutor’s Office confirmed last year that Zia Zafar was a naturalized US citizen who was of Indian origin.
He was in Mexico on a student visa. However, multiple news sources reported that Zafar was angry over a denied visa. They say that he targeted Ashcraft, the vice consul at the US consulate in Guadalajara, because of his frustration about the visa issue.
The prosecution said in court today that Zafar did not know Ashcraft and had targeted him because he represented the US government.
4. Zafar Underwent a Psychological Evaluation Last May And Was Declared Competent to Stand Trial
Zafar had originally been planning to plead innocent,by reason of insanity. However, in May of 2017, he underwent a psychological evaluation in May of 2017. Prosecutors announced in August that he had been declared fit to stand trial.
Still, news reports from today’s hearing made it sound as though Zafar’s mental health is still in question. The Washington Post reported that Zafar spoke “haltingly” and seemed confused at times. Zafar’s public defender, Whitney Minter, said that Zafar was only recently found fit to stand for trial, because of new medication he was taking. Minter said that she would call two doctors to testify during the trial about Zafar’s mental health.
5. Zafar Said He Could Not Afford A Lawyer — Even Though He Grew Up in an Affluent Area
Zafar is being represented by a public defender, just as he has been since his case opened in 2017. At his first court appearance, in January 2017, Zafar spoke only to say that he understood the charges against him, and that he could not afford to hire his own lawyer.
ABC News has reported that Zafar grew up in an expensive home in Chino Hills, California. ABC visited the area and spoke with Zafar’s neighbors. They all knew him and knew that he was studying in Mexico. He used to live in the house with his mother and sister, but they apparently moved several months ago, and their whereabouts are unknown.