Cabanas shooting suspect ID'd by police
Star soccer player in critical but stable condition after Mexico City incident
Police identified a suspect in the shooting of Paraguay soccer player Salvador Cabanas, who was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being shot in the head in the bathroom of a bar in a fashionable Mexico City neighbourhood.
Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Angel Mancera identified the suspect as Jose J. Balderas Garza -- known also as "El JJ" or "El Modelo" — from surveillance videos. Mancera said the videos showed the suspect entering the toilet with his bodyguard just moments before the Paraguayan was shot.
Hours after the shooting on Monday, surgeons attempted to remove a bullet lodged in Cabanas's skull but decided the operation was too risky.
Mancera said the suspect spoke with an accent from the northern state of Sinaloa — a centre of Mexico's drug trade. But he said "there is no indication of organized crime," suggesting instead the violence might have been set off by an argument involving a Cuban woman.
"It could have been an argument between the two (Cabanas and Balderas Garza) given their proximity and the fact she (Cuban woman) told us she had been talking with Cabanas's brother-in-law," Mancera said.
Officials said Cabanas, the star of World Cup-bound Paraguay, was in the bar with his wife and brother-in-law.
Mancera said a bar-cleaning employee recalled there had been "an argument, a strong exchange of words" between two men in the bathroom before a shot was fired.
Videos showed that club employees did not attempt to stop the suspects as they hurriedly left the bar and got in a car.
"Nobody did anything to stop them," Mancera said.
Mancera said investigators were questioning 16 people, including bar employees.
Authorities in the Mexico City borough where the shooting took place ordered the bar closed Monday, saying it had failed to provide adequate security for its customers based on the shooting.
Borough spokeswoman Georgina Pineda said the bar's late closing hours — the shooting reportedly took place just after 5 a.m. — were not the reason for the closure. Pineda said it had operated with a permit as a "private club" that exempted it from normal closing hours, though alcohol sales were supposed to stop in the early morning hours.
On Tuesday, hospital officials said a scan indicated Cabanas's condition had not worsened.
"Salvador is showing favourable signs (of recovery), he's stable and is starting to have brain responses to pain," Dr. Ernesto Martinez told reporters. "But we still have to wait."
Cabanas, 29, is the top scorer for Mexico City's Club America.
Club America president Michel Bauer said its league match against the Indios scheduled for Sunday would go on as planned.
"We're going to play," Bauer said. "We are practising like usual. There are no changes."
Bauer said he did not plan to sign another player to replace Cabanas.
The club started a page on its website for fans to leave messages for Cabanas. By Tuesday afternoon, supporters had left more than 2,000 messages.
In the Paraguay capital Asuncion, fans gathered in the national stadium Defensores del Chaco to pray for Cabanas.
Juan Angel Napout, president of the Paraguayan federation, said he opened a part of the stadium so "the public comes dressed in the national team shirt to pray for Salvador, who is playing the most important game of his life."
Cabanas has played in the Mexico league since 2003 and has scored 125 goals in 218 matches. He also scored 10 for the national team.
Earlier this month, he attracted the attention of Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, who expressed interest in bringing Cabanas to the English Premier League club. Reports suggested the deal didn't go through because Club America's asking price was too high.