San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arizona man beaten and shot in Puntarenas home invasion

Gary Lee was beaten, shot and robbed on the morning of June 21. The terrifying event and subsequent police investigation has soured him on the country he once loved.

The 73-year-old from Yuma, Arizona, in the United States, said two masked men broke into his vacation home on the beach in the central Pacific city of Puntarenas around 3 a.m.

“They thoroughly beat the living bejeezus out of me,” Lee said in a phone interview.

Lee said that after struggling to his feet to defend himself from blows, one of the men shot him in his upper leg. He believes the assailants also hit him several times with the butt of a gun before the shot. Lee said they stole $100 in cash, his credit cards and driver’s license.

Lee said he was especially frustrated by the investigation from the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ), who he said have yet to inform him of any suspects.

He had several friends from the U.S. staying at his Puntarenas home during the assault. Lee said he kept $600 in a desk that was not stolen during the night. While he was at CIMA Hospital in San José, OIJ investigated his house, asking his friends to stay outside, according to Lee. He asked his friend to check on the $600 in the desk after the investigators left, but his friend could not find the money.

Lee said he suspects the assault could be an act of revenge from a caretaker he had fired earlier. His home had no signs of forced entry.

OIJ did not respond to a request for information on the case, or the allegations that money could have been stolen after the robbery, at press time.

However, Lee did find one positive aspect of the event – his care at CIMA Hospital. The bullet broke his femur and doctors had to insert a metal rod into his leg.

“What fabulous care I got there,” Lee said while recovering in Yuma. “Doctors here are very complimentary of the CIMA Hospital.”

Yuma’s local NBC affiliate  has video and photos of Lee during his recovery.

He first bought a vacation home in Costa Rica after having visited it for several years. In Arizona, Lee was a commercial real estate broker and owned a travel agency. Lee said other vacationers and retirees learned to be careful in Costa Rica. Ten-foot walls topped with barbed wire surrounded his vacation home. Every door and window had iron bars. Lee said the consensus among vacationers had become to not walk along the beach after dark, one of the main attractions in his initial decision to buy a home in Puntarenas.

“Unless things change I have no intention of going back,” Lee said. “It’s not the paradise people say it is.”

Contact Corey Kane at ckane@ticotimes.net5

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