San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

24-year-old US tourist shot in Costa Rica robbery gone wrong

On Saturday night, assailants robbed three U.S. tourists in Costa Rica’s capital San José in an attack that ended with one of the victims rushed to Calerdón Guardia Hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) told The Tico Times that the 24-year-old victim, Leah Britton, was in stable condition on Monday.

Britton and two other tourists were walking in the Los Yoses neighborhood in eastern San José around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday when they were approached by men traveling in a gray car. Four suspects reportedly in their 20s stepped out of the vehicle and threatened the group with a gun. The attackers stole cash, cellphones and passports before telling the victims to lie on the ground.

An OIJ spokesman said Britton, after handing over her belongings, refused to lie down. One of the suspects then shot her. The attackers then fled in the same gray vehicle.

Britton was admitted to the Calerdón Guardia Hospital in the capital.

Jorge Zúñiga, spokesman for the OIJ, told The Tico Times that the police agency recommends robbery victims follow attackers’ orders and avoid fighting. Zúñiga added that suspects often are armed, and resistance could dangerously escalate a situation.

He added that Los Yoses, a neighborhood in eastern San José with many hostels, is not known as a dangerous part of the capital, and although robberies are rare, they do occur.

As of this post, OIJ investigators have not recovered any belongings or identified the four suspects. The investigation is ongoing.

Contact Zach Dyer at

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John Grimwood Manley

I am hoping and praying that my daughter gets home safely. I was skeptical of her decision to go there to study, now I feel downright foolish for allowing her to. My condolences and deepest sympathy goes out to Leah and her family.

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Sheryl Maisey

Jaf, I find your comments very offensive especially towards Americans. I’m not american by the way. It was just an unlucky situation. Are trying to tell me you never go anywhere at 9:30pm at night ? People get mugged and worse no matter where you are and yes some places have a higher risk than others due to bent crime systems and poverty. I’m in Yoses area right now and I walk past patrol police every day so there are some around!! This is a sad situation that has happened and don’t think your negative comments help. You wouldn’t be saying this if it was your friend or family in sure . Nobody deserves to hurt for walking a street.

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Zach, I think it’s actually quite possible that you got more things wrong than right in this story.

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ICIEP, do you know Britton? I would be interested in speaking with her.


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When the USA Govt controls your media this is the way things are reported; inaccurately.

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This information is incorrect. There were FOUR VICTIMS, THREE suspects and the victims are all exchange students, not tourists. Britton has been living in CR for over 6months and they were all being very cautious. It was just an unlucky situation.

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Ignace Hilsberg

this happens far more frequently in this the “switzerland” of CA than anyone will admit.
as of this writing “la nacion” has not picked up the story but is reporting on a machete attack against a dog

I am personally aware of 4 armed assaults against ticos, including one against school kids that never made it to the papers.

Law-abiding ticos live in daily fear no matter where they live. Bars and razor wire help but once in a while you have to leave your little prison cell for provisons and the bad guys are waiting for you.
If only the OIJ would start to “disappear” these thugs.

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John Morris

Travel agents should warn their clients that visiting the greater San Jose area is kin to visiting South Chicago.

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Chuck in Illinois

One step closer to being a dirtbag 3rd World Country…What a Shame.
My guess would be that even if they find the bad guys, that they are related to one of the cops and would never be brought up on charges anyway.

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Gordon Lindley

Confronting would be attackers here is risky. About a 50/50 chance either your dead wounded or they flee. Anywhere in the world including USA better to give up your property. The only time I would fight back if they wanted to take me somewhere into a room . I would rather die fighting then be tortured or raped. Tico police and the OIJ will never catches these crooks and if they did the judge would release them in a few hours. Court system here is broken. Tourist need to know this BEFORE coming here. Everyone here fears for their lives , That is why we have high fences and razor wire everywhere. Also the current President Laura Chinchilla moving to Canada next month to live in peace. Just the way it is here.

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My condolences to the family, but let this be a warning to arrogant tourists. If the locals don’t go out at night you shouldn’t either.

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She was an exchange student, and before you call people arrogant, they were in a well lit considerably ‘safer’ part of San Jose a block from their hostel and it wasn’t even late at night, walking back after buying groceries because they unfortunately missed the last bus to their host city. Solely bad luck.

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My wife is tica, 2nd degree black belt in shotokan karate, and even she won’t walk the streets of san jose at night. ANY part of san jose. Even the cops won’t patrol the area that the tourist was shot at night. What does that tell you?

Also, this should serve as a warning that you should always take a taxi if you have to go somewhere at night. Most of them take credit cards these days anyway.

If I’ve learned anything living here three years, it’s that the majority of us Americans are arrogant and diluted in our view of safety. God bless the Costa Ricans for being more realistic about their safety.

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Colin Brownlee

Hmmmm….. I wonder if she feels she did the right thing? When I was in a hotel in that same neighborhood years ago and had someone enter my room, I fought back and was able to get him out if my room. Only to later find a knife that he dropped on the floor in the struggle. In hindsight, I considered myself foolish, more then brave.

Curious though… 2 stories TT has about tourists being “robbed in Costa Rica”. Both were in Central Valley and one was clearly in San Jose central. Would the headlines be the same if these incidents happened in Puerto Viejo?

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Your right on the stories issue.

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What a brave young lady…..You did the right thing, Never lay down only the Tico police could give such bad advise… reason then hole country lived behind bars.

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