Husband of American killed by Mexico cartel says they fled Los Angeles over crime

The widower of a Los Angeles woman shot and killed in cartel crossfire at a beach club in Tulum, Mexico, said they had fled crime in California.

The former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) husband of an American woman shot and killed at a Mexican resort earlier this month told Fox News Digital that she began spending more time out of her native Los Angeles over crime concerns plaguing the California city – only to die at the hands of cartel crossfire. 

Niko Honarbakhsh, a Los Angeles native who garnered more than 120,000 followers documenting her life and travels on Instagram, was shot and killed on Feb. 9 at the Mia Beach Club in Tulum, a popular tourist destination for Americans, as bullets whizzed between two suspected drug dealers, according to Mexican authorities. 

Her husband of almost 15 years, Karl Perman, a former DEA agent who also worked in law enforcement around Chicago and Detroit, told Fox News Digital last week that the two of them split their time between their home in Beverly Hills, California, and their condominium in Cancun, Mexico, over the past five years. Now, he’s planning a funeral. 

After meeting through a friend in Chicago, the couple built a life together with their two beloved dogs, Skylar and Coco, outside where Honarbakhsh grew up in Los Angeles. But recently, Honarbakhsh felt unsafe in her hometown with crime and homelessness plaguing Los Angeles, especially since Perman often travels for his current work in the private energy sector. 


“We were aware of the State Department advisory, and we were aware of, you know, reportings of crime in this area. But honestly, our opinion was – take a look at Los Angeles,” Perman told Fox News Digital. “So, actually, I feel many times, depending upon the neighborhood, safer in Cancun than I do in Los Angeles.” 

“I mean, Beverly Hills, different story, but most of the time I spend outside of Beverly Hills. So, I can tell you that, I feel safer. And she did as well,” Perman said. “We were aware of the crime. But again, I think if you look at the statistics, probably any major metropolitan area in the U.S. would have probably a bigger crime index than Cancun itself.” 

Perman acknowledged the U.S. State Department’s advisory for Quintana Roo State, where both Cancun and Tulum are located, but said his wife had greater safety concerns in LA. 

The State Department warns Americans to “exercise increased caution due to crime” in Quintana Roo, stating, “criminal activity and violence may occur in any location, at any time, including in popular tourist destinations. Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations. While not directed at tourists, shootings between rival gangs have injured innocent bystanders.” 

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Perman said he was out of town on a work trip last summer when his wife called him and said she was being chased by a man with a knife while walking their dogs on the University of California at Los Angeles campus. He said he told her to call 911 and pound on the doors of the law library for students to let her inside. She told him she had already called 911, and once inside the library, she called UCLA campus police, who responded, Perman said. 

“I’m from the Midwest, so I tend to be a little bit more, traditional, if you would, where she’s from Los Angeles. So she was the creative one in the in the family. But, from her speaking, from what, you know, we talked about it. Definitely. That was one of her concerns,” Perman said of his wife’s thoughts on being in Los Angeles alone without him. “She was concerned about her safety. She had, just recently, she was walking the dogs, actually, on the campus of UCLA and was chased by a person with a knife.”

Speaking to Fox News Digital on Thursday, Perman warned other Americans traveling to Mexico that they must heed State Department warnings and know their resources, pointing to how he categorized Mexican authorities and management at the Mia Beach Club as initially unhelpful – and he had to defend his wife’s reputation despite her being a victim of a crime. 

Another person, a man believed to be one of the suspected drug dealers, was also killed in the shooting at the Tulum beach club on Feb. 9. 

And in a statement issued on Feb. 11, the Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office refuted “erroneous” reporting that Honarbakhsh was connected to him. 


“The main thing was nobody was helpful at all, at any, at any level until I actually, you know, kind of stood in their station demanding assistance and then making calls,” Perman told Fox News Digital. “The main thing is I just want people to be aware that you kinda gotta use your own voice and make it heard… Because I know for sure if – I mean I’m a stubborn son of a gun. And, you know, obviously with my training and such, but, I got the feeling right away that Friday night… she would have been probably a missing person for who knows how long.” 

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Two days after his wife was killed, Perman said he confronted the Quintana Roo State Attorney General’s Office about false reports that his wife was not American and had been drug dealing around Tulum for the past three months – rumors that he said were concretely false and attempted to place blame on the victim.

Perman said he showed Mexican prosecutors his wife’s passport, birth certificate and marriage certificate – all of which indicated she was born in Los Angeles – and Perman and Honarbakhsh had been together in California for about six weeks until late January. Honarbakhsh had only been back in Mexico for about three or four days when she was killed, he said. 

“It seems like every time there’s an American that’s killed here, the spin is they were doing something wrong. Right? Buying drugs, selling drugs, being near drugs,” he said. 

The tragedy unfolded earlier this month after Perman was pulled away again for a work trip to West Palm Beach, Florida, and his wife chose to make the about two-hour drive south from their condo in Cancun to stay in an Airbnb for a few days in Tulum, where she loved that their dogs were able to run freely on the beaches off leash. 

Perman said he had spoken to his wife several times before starting to travel back to Mexico, via a connecting flight from West Palm Beach to Dallas, Texas, when a friend contacted him saying he heard an American woman matching Honarbakhsh’s description had been shot at the Mia Beach Club. Once Perman landed in Mexico, his friend lent him a driver who took him to Tulum. Police, the morgue and the homicide investigations office were closed for the night, so he went to the Mia Beach club himself. 

Perman said a guard let him in, and he saw the beach was mostly roped off. He said he spotted his wife’s hat, their dogs’ vest on the beach, as well as his car in the resort’s parking lot. 

From speaking with the guards there, and later viewing video that captured the shooting unfolding, Perman described what happened. 


“Basically, I guess there was an alleged drug dealer that came in and saw another drug dealer and then shot that drug dealer like up by the restaurant, and then that person was just injured. So he ran to get away from the other person. And as he ran out to the beach, the other person ran chasing him and shooting, but obviously not very good gun control as you’re running and shooting it. So the rounds, you know, one went all over and two of them hit Niko,” he said. 

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The AG’s Office said in a statement on Sunday that a taxi driver had been arrested for allegedly driving three people to the crime scene in Tulum – a beachside restaurant – to carry out the shootings. Those three people were responsible for the gunfire that killed Honarbakhsh, authorities said, but the shooters have not yet been captured.

According to Perman’s account, when he returned to the club the next day, the manager “did not ask me to leave, but he welcomed me to leave,” describing the man as standoffish and claiming that no one working the day before was around to speak with him about what happened amid the “chaos.” 

“Do you understand who I am? I’m like, it’s my wife. Like, you know, I would really appreciate some details,” Perman recalled of the exchange. “He actually said that he wasn’t happy about things because the government told him that he had to shut down a portion of his club, and it was taped off. So I told him, as far as I’m concerned, you shouldn’t be open at all.”

Mia Beach Club could not immediately be reached for comment.

Afterward, Perman said he spent hours at the homicide investigators’ office, demanding he be allowed to identify his wife’s body. 

“I mean, I said, how do I confirm a body? They wouldn’t show me anything. They wouldn’t show me pictures. They wouldn’t show me the body, they wouldn’t show me anything. And I’m like, well, how do I even know that this is her?” he said. Eventually, authorities showed Perman the body that evening, and he confirmed that it was his wife. 

He credited the U.S. government – specifically the DEA and the State Department – for helping facilitate another meeting with Mexican prosecutors after initially spending hours at the state attorney general’s office refuting their claims she was photographed with one of the suspected drug dealers. It was at that meeting, with head commanders of Tulum police and prosecutors, that Perman said Mexican authorities reevaluated the photo and admitted the woman in the image was not Honarbakhsh. 

Perman said Mexican authorities eventually apologized.

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