TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – An evangelical pastor walking his two schnauzers was shot to death by a gunman who tried to steal the dogs, Honduran authorities said Tuesday.
Witnesses told police that the assailant got out of a car and tried to snatch the two schnauzer puppies from pastor Carlos Marroquin in the northern city of San Pedro Sula on Monday, Security Minister Oscar Alvarez said.
Marroquin refused to hand over the dogs, and the gunman opened fire. Neighbors said the dogs then ran across the street to their home and the shooter fled in the vehicle.
"Witnesses said they saw the pastor with his dogs and then a car stopped and someone shouted, 'Give me the dogs,' and the pastor said no," Alvarez said.
Police were looking for the gunman and a second person who drove the car.
Schnauzers can sell for about $500 in Honduras, where the minimum monthly salary is $311.
"This happened in a framework of violence, of disrespect for the law by some young people," Alvarez said.
Marroquin, a 41-year-old Pentecostal pastor and lawyer, was a founding member of the Latin American Network of Christian Lawyers and began preaching at a young age in the rough neighborhoods of San Pedro Sula, near Honduras' Atlantic coast.
Neighbors said he walked the dogs in the neighborhood every afternoon.
"Marroquin was a man of God, honest and respected," fellow pastor Oswaldo Canales said. "Our church has lost a bulwark."
Violence in the Central American country of 8 million people is linked to organized crime, drug trafficking and youth gangs, according to the Security Department.
At least 18,500 people have been killed in random violence over the last five years, according to a recent report by Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio.