Guide murdered alongside American doctor had trouble with a local gang, police say

PHOTO: Dr. Gary Swank is pictured in an undated handout photo released by the Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, Va.PlayCourtesy Carilion Clinic
WATCH Details emerge about murder of American doctor

An American doctor was murdered in Belize in what local authorities are saying was a shooting involving a member of a gang.

Dr. Gary Swank was found dead Sunday alongside a local tour guide, identified by local authorities as Mario Graniel.

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" and that 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.

"We are working on several leads. We know that they were fishing in that particular area and thereafter the report came in that there had been a shooting," he said.

Word of the murders traveled to the U.S., prompting Swank's hospital to release a statement about the "tragic news."

"We are heartbroken at his loss. Dr. Swank was a well-respected and well-loved colleague who, each and every day, embodied the values that we hold dear," said Chris Turnbull, the director of corporate communications at the Carilion Clinic in Virginia. "His absence leaves a void in our team and in our community. Our thoughts, prayers and attention are now focused on helping his family navigate this difficult time."

The Associated Press reported that Swank arrived in Belize with his family on Saturday, the day before his death.