SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico woke up this Tuesday shocked by the murder of three police officers in the most serious case in its recent history of the death of agents in a single violent event.
The Chief of the Puerto Rico Police, Antonio LópezHe lowered his head and was close to tears at a press conference when he remembered his three deceased colleagues, the number of deaths of agents in a single event that had not been recorded since 2006.
Authorities, both at the US state and federal level, are intensifying the search for those responsible for the murders, which coincide with a wave of violence that has caused 10 deaths to be reported in less than 12 hours.
The president of the Organized Police and Security Corporation (COPS), Jaime MoralesHe told Efe that the situation for police officers is difficult, since fewer and fewer are patrolling the streets, mainly due to abandonment of the profession due to working conditions.
Morales said that since 2011 the number of agents has been reduced from 16,000 to a figure of between 8,000 and 9,000, which, without a doubt, is key when facing a crime wave.
“If it weren’t for the help of the Municipal Police, we couldn’t fight crime,” said Morales, who leads the local union with the largest membership.
“Not enough cadets are trained,” he stressed, after noting that despite the economic improvements in recent years, many officers are discouraged by their future.
Few police officers
Morales denounced that there are days when the number of agents in the streets is minimal, due to the reduction of troops, abandonments and permits and the consequence is the lack of troops.
Historically, the Puerto Rico Police has had about 22,000 officers, a number that has been reduced by almost half in recent years.
The secretary of the Department of Public Security (DSP), Alexis Torres, released the message today that this type of incident will not happen again.
Torres also assured that, precisely at this time, measures were being prepared together with the federal authorities to fight crime.
The head of the US Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico, Stephen MuldrowHe wanted to show his support in an institutional statement condemning the events and makes all the means of the US agency available.
The Executive of Puerto Rico decreed three days of national mourning for the murder of the three policemen and the governor, Pedro Pierluisi, deeply regretted the deaths.
Three days of mourning
The mayor of the capital, Miguel Romero, also ordered that the flags of said municipality and its dependencies fly at half-staff for three days.
Regarding the development of the investigation, Colonel Rolando Trinidad, in charge of the case, said during the press conference that the events occurred when the agents, the state policeman Luis Marrero and the municipal officials Luis Salamán and Eliezer Hernández, carried out a routine patrol.
The persecution took place on Baldorioty de Castro Avenue, one of the main access roads to San Juan and one of the busiest, near the airport and near Isla Verde, a tourist area, which has increased concern among the authorities.
The events caused a monumental traffic jam at the entrances and exits of San Juan.
Trinidad explained that the agents responded to a call caused by a crash in the Severo Quiñones urbanization, in the town of Carolina, after which the individual who caused the crash left the vehicle in which he was traveling and upon arrival the agents began to shoot them with a rifle. assault, assassinating agent Salamán.
(Warning: images contain obscene words)
Shot the agents
During the incident, a citizen ran over the fugitive, who got up and snatched a Hyundai vehicle from a woman, which led to a chase down Baldorioty de Castro Avenue to the height of Isla Verde, where he stopped and shot the agent to death State Marrero.
In the flight he fatally ran over agent Hernández and seriously wounded the state Ángel Colón.
The authorities found the Hyundai on Jupiter Street in the Llorens Torres residential area.
Suspect would be a fugitive since 2019
Local media emphasize that the Police suspect that the author of the incidents has been a fugitive since 2019 in the United States Court for the District of Puerto Rico after being charged with violations of his probation in a case of firearms and drug trafficking.
The individual would be Carlos Cotto, a native of Caguas and known as “Wassa”, who was arrested on April 15, 2015.
Trinidad explained about the investigation of the case that a body was found in the area of a “person of interest in the investigation,” although he did not certify that he was responsible for the death.
After clarifying that the description of the body found does not fully match the description of the suspect, he said that he is working with forensics to determine the identity of the body and its relationship with the events.
It also did not clarify whether one or more people participated in the incidents.
The Secretary of Justice, Domingo Emanuelli, and the District Attorney of the Carolina Public Prosecutor’s Office, Inés Carrau, reported that the Public Ministry assigned a total of seven prosecutors to attend to the event.