San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Catching a Criminal: Have Machete Will Travel

On July 30, screams rang out through the streets of Granada as a young woman was grabbed and punched in the face by an assailant, one in a group of young men who then fled with her purse. A number of friends and onlookers pursued, but lost sight of the thieves as they separated.

I heard the screams and, for a split second, was not sure if they were serious.

I paused for a second inside my house, but it was clear they were no joke – the women sounded like they were in serious trouble. A second later a guy ran past my door like a bat out of heck, and I thought ‘I’m gonna’ get that son-of-a-gun!’

I wasn’t going to let him get away. I’m tired of all the rip-offs here and I wasn’t going to allow another one.

I took immediate action, grabbing my “farm companion” for protection. I grabbed the machete I keep by the door as a statement – it’s not just for the finca anymore, I thought with a grin.

Next, my pepper spray. I decided the bike would be best for the pursuit, so I flew into the street and the chase was on – machete in one hand, spray in the other… hey – I even remembered my keys!

I caught the mugger about 10 blocks away. I told him in no uncertain terms that – well – that he’d better stop, and that he was coming back with us to be identified. I also told him to keep his hands out.

I suppose the machete helped convince him it was the right thing to do.

Shortly thereafter, a pursing security guard came up behind and trapped the assailant with his billy club.

He wasn’t going anywhere at that point. The security guy was tough and it was great to see the community helping out – it’s the right thing to do, for everyone’s sake – for the good and safety of the people here.

About 10 of us marched him back –neighborhood guards and citizens – joking how I was like Jason from Friday the 13th.

Gratefully, there were a lot of conscientious people out that night!

The tourists, who were visibly shaken, positively identified the thief. They told the police who arrested the young man that they had been walking in the area just a few blocks from the park when they were accosted and robbed by the group of men.

The female victim explained to police that the men had started grabbing at them a little, and at first they thought it was just gropes, but that a second later he hit her friend and ran off with her bag.

Sadly, her friend had already been afraid of traveling, so this was the last thing she needed, she said.

The arresting officer told the handcuffed thief that he was putting a black mark on the country, and that the tourists are the ones who ultimately give them money by bringing business to the nation.

It will be interesting to see how the case is pursued, since the tourists will almost certainly not be present for a trial. I’m curious how this city and country will respond to such attacks on its security, tourism and future. It’s critical that a message is sent that this type of behavior won’t be tolerated.

Daniel Gohstand is a photojournalist from San Francisco, California, who has willingly resided in Granada for eight months.


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