On July 27, Costa Rica will observe the 10th anniversary of an act that shocked two countries — the death within a few minutes of three Chilean officials inside their embassy in San José.
Not only did it stun this country but shocked Chileans who, if asked, would have said that in the peaceful Costa Rica, their embassy would be the safest place in the region.
Worse was the frustration of police officers who, although they knew the approximate location of the shooter that day in 2004 but were prevented by diplomatic protocol from entering foreign territory to make certain no more lives were lost.
Granted, the killings were so fast that it is unlikely that Costa Ricans, even a SWAT team, could have prevented it. Indeed, some in Chile questioned why their embassy was not better protected. But who could have predicted that such a thing could happen in the quietest nation in Central America?
For six agonizing hours, police cordoned off the building Barrio Dent (San Pedro) of San Jose awaiting that permission while TV news cameras kept a watchful eye on the area. Inside, Second Secretary Roberto Nieto Maturana, consul Christian Yuseff Marchant and embassy cultural attache Rocio Sariego lay dead in the same office.
But seven hostages remained in the building but the number was unknown at the time. Unknown to the gunman, the hostages, including two Costa Rican secretarial personnel, had hidden in a locked room and piled furniture against the door. Their quick thinking saved their lives.
Armed with an M-16 automatic rifle, the shooter, a local police officer Jose Orlando Jimenez, 54, was looking for other victims and tried to break into the locked room, even shooting at the door, but the shots did not penetrate. It was hard to reconcile people’s description of him as a “good person” the man bent on spreading death.
The refugees stayed in that room from shortly after the first shots were fired at 3:45 p.m. until 10 that night, terrified for their lives. Jimenez refused to negotiate with police and sometime during the evening placed the muzzle of his weapon under his chin and fired.
During the tense hours of that evening, first then-Minister of Security Alvaro Ramos, then specialized hostage situation officers from OIJ tried to talk Jimenez out, to no avail. They even brought in the officer’s father to talk with him but the shooter never replied. Indeed, his motive was never explained.
After the stand-off ended, Costa Ricans placed flowers and candles outside the building, along with notes expressing condolences and even pleading for pardon from the Chilean people. After all, it was one of their own who had done the killing and Costa Ricans were as devastated as anyone else.
Today, the Chilean embassy is located in Los Yoses and the building in Barrio Dent, having been vacated after the tragedy, has housed several businesses, most recently a beauty school.
Article by iNews.co.cr