Ticos Horrified by Embassy Slayings, Policeman’s Attack Leaves 3 Chilean
Flags are still at half-mast after a Costa Ricanpolice officer on Tuesday afternoon stormed theChilean Embassy in San José with an assaultrifle, killing three officials immediately whileseven others hid for hours before he took hisown life.The victims, all Chileans, were identified as 42-year-old Consul Cristhian Yuseff, 44-year-old FirstSecretary Roberto Nieto and 25-year-old SecretaryRocío Sariego.The killer has been identified as 54-year-old JoséOrlando Jiménez, an officer who had been stationed asa guard at the embassy, in the eastern San José districtof Los Yoses, for the past two years.Authorities believe Jiménez snapped after beingnotified Tuesday he would be transferred from his post.The transfer order included the two other officersassigned to the embassy and came at the request ofChilean officials dissatisfied with the police officers’ work, according to Public SecurityMinistry officials.Today marks the end of a three-dayperiod of national mourning for thetragedy, the first of its kind in Costa Ricanhistory.The nightmare that lasted more thansix hours began when Jiménez entered theembassy at 3:45 p.m., armed with an M-16assault rifle.POLICE say they are certain he shotthe three victims almost immediately afterhe went in, as officers and Red Crossmedics who finally stormed the buildingjust after 10:00 p.m. said it appeared theyhad been dead for several hours.Jiménez rushed in, demanded Sariegoto take him to Nieto, and then shot herwhen she denied his request, AttorneyGeneral Francisco Dall’Anese speculatedon Tuesday. The policeman then enteredNieto’s office and shot him while he wason the phone with Chilean governmentofficials in Santiago, Dall’Anese said.The phone remained live for a shorttime and Chilean officials listened intently.Dall’Anese said the officer then foundYuseff in his office and shot him.JIMÉNEZ moved through the buildingoffice by office searching for more targets,officials said, and found the roomwhere five other terrified embassy employeeshad sought refuge. They had locked thedoor to the room and put several pieces offurniture in front of it, hiding in silence forbetween five and six hours, communicatingbriefly with police via a cell phone.Police said Jiménez fired several rounds atthe door, but was not able to gain entry.Two other survivors were hidden in abathroom, and Jiménez was apparentlyunaware of their presence.Dall’Anese said Jiménez removed hisuniform after the slayings and put it in abag. Then, wearing only his underclothes,he held the rifle under his chin and fired around through his head.Jiménez survived the wound, walkingfirst to the kitchen of the embassy, where hedropped his weapon, and then to Nieto’soffice to await death. Dall’Anese said it tookhim between five and seven hours to die.Jiménez fired a total of seven rounds,Dall’Anese said.OUTSIDE, it was a tense waitinggame. For hours police believed no onehad been wounded.Two hostage negotiators stood outsidethe embassy with megaphones, attemptingto open a dialogue with Jiménez as specialpolice units, masked and armed with submachineguns, moved into position aroundthe building, ready to enter. Negotiatorsalso brought Jiménez’ son to the scene andprovided him with a megaphone, but themove drew no response.The officers’ positions were beingbroadcast over live television, whichprompted police to move several buses between the media and the embassy, asthey feared Jiménez may have had accessto a television and may have perceivedtheir preparations as an unwillingness tonegotiate.STILL, Public Security MinisterRogelio Ramos said at the time he hopedJiménez was watching the broadcast, andtook advantage of the media presence totell the officer that police would wait aslong as necessary to negotiate.At that time, Ramos and other officialsmaintained that there had been no injuries.But their attempts to communicate with thepoliceman were for hours met with onlysilence.Several emotional family members ofthose trapped inside the building arrivedon the scene and had to be escorted awayby police.OFFICERS noticed very little movement,and eventually developed thehypothesis that five people had been killed.Asked why authorities believed for solong no one had been wounded,Dall’Anese said, “The matter is a bit complicated.The management of informationduring a crisis like this is extremely difficult.”The Attorney General said tacticalunits had to first obtain a plan of the buildingbefore even considering a raid.PRESIDENCY Minister RicardoToledo asked Chilean officials for the go aheadto storm the embassy. Chilean Vice-President and Minister of the Interior, JoséMiguel Insulza, on a special visit to CostaRica, asked for more time. Authoritieswaited.Eventually, Chilean ambassadorGuillermo Yungue authorized police to goin.They entered and found the four deadbodies and seven survivors.Officials are still waiting for autopsyand ballistic test results, among otheritems of forensic evidence, before agreeingon an official version of what tookplace.Among the survivors are César Gómez,assistant to the ambassador; LeonardoBanda, director of ProChile; CeciliaMontero, a ProChile employee; LeonardoGuerra, a ProChile intern; Janneth Víquez,a Prochile employee; Janneth Aguilar, acustodian, and consul secretary XiniaVargas.PRESIDENT Abel Pacheco onWednesday ordered the three-day mourningperiod after the shocking event.“It is a painful tragedy that causes usconsternation, because it is a yet-unheardof situation and one that affects diplomatsof a nation which we have been historicallyunited with through ties of friendshipand solidarity,” Pacheco said.The President spoke with ChileanPresident Ricardo Lagos on Wednesday to“offer the most sincere condolences for thedeaths of three officials of the ChileanEmbassy in Costa Rica.”NO one is sure exactly what pushedJiménez over the edge. Friends and familymembers described him as a sensitive,calm, good-natured man who showed nosign of emotional instability. Policedescribed him as having been a model officerwho “had never presented disciplinaryproblems and (was) described by thosewho knew him as a friendly and diligentman.” He had been with the force since1997.Before learning of the deaths, PublicSecurity Minister Rogelio Ramos saideverything they knew about Jiménez indicatedthat he was “a calm-natured person –he just had a bad afternoon.”“It is a tragedy. This event is terrible,”Ramos later said when notified of thedeaths.MINISTRY representatives consultedby The Tico Times called the situation “anatypical and unusual case.”Chilean Embassy officials were upsetby the fact that Jiménez occasionally lefthis post to talk with the guard at thePlanning Ministry next door, which is whythey requested his transfer, the daily LaNación reported.According to Public Security Ministryofficials, Jiménez had not been fired, andhis new post was to be only 75 meters fromthe embassy.BUT Andrea Mullino, chief prosecutoroverseeing investigation of the case, saidinvestigators have learned from some witnessesthat Jiménez was extremely upsetabout the transfer, leading them to believethat could have been the only possiblemotive for the slaying.Psychologist Liana Garnier of theCosta Rican Psychologists’ Associationsaid it would be necessary to conduct a“mental autopsy” of Jiménez by interviewingfriends, family members, co-workersand anyone else he interacted with on aregular basis to understand his previousmental state.Garnier said Jiménez most likely interpretedthe transfer order as being fired, andexploded after feeling an extreme sense ofrejection.President Pacheco, himself a psychiatrist,told the press this week that menand women Jiménez’ age can suffer violent,unforeseeable personality changes.Jiménez’ last psychiatric exam, conductedby police in 1998, yielded normalresults, La Nación reported.AT an emotional mass in remembrance of the victims held Wednesday evening atSan José’s Metropolitan Cathedral, SanJosé Archbishop Hugo Barrantes lamentedthe violence as uncharacteristic of CostaRica.“We have a country without an army.Our jails have been turned into museumsand houses of culture. So we ask ourselves,‘where does this violence come from?’” hesaid. “Some say violence is intuitive, that itis second nature.”Pacheco also spoke at the mass andexpressed his solidarity with the Chileanpeople.He said he hoped the official mourningperiod would show Chileans, “in CostaRica we also feel broken-hearted, thatalthough nothing can mitigate the infinitepain of those moments, we also feel profoundlyshaken.”ON Wednesday dozens of CostaRicans and Chileans laid flowers and litcandles outside the embassy to payhomage to the victims.“I classify it as an act of tremendoushorror that has increased the beginning ofsolidarity between Chile and Costa Rica. Itis a killing that has no name or explanation,”Costa Rican Foreign MinisterRoberto Tovar told La Nación.Nieto, who had been working at theembassy one year, was married and thefather of three children between the ages ofthree and 12. Yuseff and Sariego, who hadthree years and one year working at theembassy, respectively, were both single,according to Chilean Embassy officials.Costa Rican authorities are maintainingconstant communication with Chileanauthorities in Santiago and San José tocoordinate the repatriation of the victims’bodies, according to officials from thePresident’s office.Tico Times Reporter Rebecca Kimitch contributedto this article.
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