Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Men wielding automatic weapons gunned down the Honduran national soccer team's goalkeeper on Sunday, as he sat in his parked car in the country's second-largest city.
Milton Javier Flores, known on the field as "Chocolate", was shot six times and died shortly before 3am local time in the city of San Pedro Sula, 180km north of Tegucigalpa, the capital.
Before he died, a gravely injured Flores tried to drive to a hospital but only managed to steer his car into a nearby tree.
An unidentified woman who was sitting in the car with him was shot several times and was in critical condition at a San Pedro Sula hospital.
Flores's car was riddled with 15 bullets, leading police to conclude that members of a local gang deliberately targeted the man considered Honduras's top keeper.
Police spokesperson Nahin Nunez said the slaying happened in the La Union neighbourhood, a gang-infested area where fighting between rival groups leads to execution-style shootings every few weeks.
What Flores was doing in La Union and why he was attacked remained unclear, Nunez said. Flores, 28, played for the Honduran club Real Espana.
On Saturday he led his team to a 3-2 victory over La Ceiba, then drove 120km to San Pedro Sula and the site of the slaying, Nunez said.
In a phone interview, Rafael Leonardo Callejas, the president of the Honduran soccer federation, called Flores's death "an irreplaceable loss for Honduran soccer".
"I am profoundly saddened," Callejas said. "His death has left an empty place in Honduran sports."
Flores started in goal for Honduras during qualifying matches for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He was also the national team's No 1 during qualifying for the 1998 World Cup in France and during the 1995 Pan-American Games. - Sapa-AP