Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Mystery surrounds Guatemala killings

Investigators are still puzzling over the Feb. 25 murders of four imprisoned former police officers in Guatemala, according to a story by James C. McKinley Jr. of the New York Times.

The victims were Luis Arturo Herrera, head of the Guatemalan National Police organized crime unit and three of his men. The men were shot to death while in custody at a high security prison in Cuilapa, 40 miles east of Guatemala City. Investigators are trying to determine how gunmen might have passed through seven or eight locked doors to gain access to the prisoners. Twenty-two prison guards have been questioned, according to a story by Juan Carlos Llorca of the AP.

The four officers had been arrested Feb. 22 and charged with the Feb. 19 killings of three diplomats, who were representatives of El Salvador at the Central American Parliament based in Guatemala City. Herrera and his men confessed to the killings, saying they mistook the diplomats for drug dealers.
When the four police officers were initially detained in Guatemala City, the government received word that their lives were in danger. The four were moved to a cell in Cuilapa for their protection.
Some believe the officers were killed by other inmates in the prison, which is largely populated by gang members. (Prisoners rioted at about the same time the murders occurred.) But others say a group of gunmen in military uniforms entered the prison and committed the murders without any interference from prison personnel.
Guatemalan President Oscar Berger (right) said he believed the four men were killed by members of an organized criminal entity in order to keep them quiet. Rodrigo Avila, head of police in El Salvador agreed and noted, "It is clear that the people who committed these killings have some level of influence inside the police, prison or governmental structure."

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Editor/publisher of crime history journal, Informer. Publisher of American Mafia history website mafiahistory.us. Moderator of Mafia-related Google+ community and Yahoo discussion group. Author of Wrongly Executed? Coauthor of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia and DiCarlo: Buffalo's First Family of Crime. Contributor of American Mafia history to Australian-published Mafia: The Necessary Reference to Organized Crime. Writer/co-writer of crime history articles for Informer, On the Spot Journal, Cigar City Magazine, Tampa Mafia Magazine.