Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Javier Valdez was driving in broad daylight down a street he must have known well, just a block from his office, when he became the latest victim of a wave of journalist killings that has hit Mexico.

Masked gunmen forced Valdez from his red Toyota Camry, shot him dead and left his body in the middle of the street Monday, said Riodoce, the publication he helped start.

The car was found later in the afternoon on a sidewalk next to an elementary school, wedged between a utility pole and a wall with the motor still running and the gears engaged.

Valdez, an award-winning reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain in the northern state of Sinaloa, long a hotbed of drug cartel activity.

He is at least the sixth journalist murdered in Mexico since early March, an unusually high number even for one of the world’s deadliest countries for media professionals.

Reporting on Valdez’s killing, Mexican media posted images showing a body lying in the street covered by a blue blanket and surrounded by 12 yellow markers of the kind typically used to flag evidence such as bullet casings. Riodoce said Valdez’s laptop and cellphone were missing.

Prosecutors announced they were investigating whether the killing may have been due to Valdez”s work or a carjacking turned deadly. President Enrique Pena Nieto condemned what he called an “outrageous crime.”

Valdez, also a correspondent for the national newspaper La Jornada, was an internationally recognized journalist who authored several books on the drug trade.

He was considered a rare source of independent, investigative journalism in Sinaloa, said Jan-Albert Hootson, the Mexico representative for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. (AP)

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Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Journalists and demonstrators hold up pictures of journalist Javier Valdez during a demonstration against his killing and for other journalists who were killed, at the Interior Ministry building in Mexico City, Mexico on May 16, 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Friends and relatives say their last goodbyes during the funeral mass of slain journalist Javier Valdez, in Culiacan Mexico, Tuesday, May 16 2017. (AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Friends and relatives say their last goodbyes during the funeral mass of slain journalist Javier Valdez, in Culiacan Mexico, Tuesday, May 16 2017. (AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Flower arrangements cover the steps of the Cathedral of Culiacan Mexico after the funeral mass of slain journalist Javier Valdez, Tuesday, May 16 2017. (AP Photo/Rashide Frias)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

A woman lays a candle in front of pictures of murdered journalists taped to a fence surrounding the Interior Ministry in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Demonstrators hold candles as they take part in a demonstration against the murder of journalist Javier Valdez, and for other journalists who were killed in Mexico, at the Interior Ministry building in Mexico City, Mexico on May 16, 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

A pair of young men project a video and slideshow from atop ladders, one decorated with a picture of murdered journalist Javier Valdez, during a protest in front of the Interior Ministry in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

A protestor holds a sign reading “No more violence against journalists,” during a demonstration outside the Interior Ministry in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

View of the Angel of Independence monument where a dozen reporters gathered to write, “In Mexico they are killing us,” and “No to silence”, to call attention to the wave of journalist killings, in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Hector Vivas via Derecho a Informar via AP)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Pictures of journalists who have been killed in Mexico are seen during a demonstration against the murder of journalist Javier Valdez, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico on May 16, 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Maria Herrera, a mother who became active in the search for Mexico’s missing after four of her sons disappeared, weeps after speaking about murdered journalist Javier Valdez during a protest against the killing of reporters, in front of the Interior Ministry in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Journalists and photographers hold up pictures of journalist Javier Valdez during a demonstration against his killing and for other journalists who were killed in Mexico, at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City, Mexico May on 16, 2017. (Henry Romero/Reuters)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Evidence identifiers are placed next to the body of journalist Javier Valdez at a crime scene in Culiacan, In Sinaloa state, Mexico on May 15, 2017. (Jesus Bustamante/Reuters)

Protests and funeral Mass for slain Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Journalist Javier Valdez poses for a photo an unknown location in Mexico. Valdez, a veteran reporter who specialized in covering drug trafficking and organized crime, was slain Monday, May 15 2017, in the northern Mexico state of Sinaloa, the latest in a wave of journalist killings in one of the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers. (Riodoce via AP)

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