by Nick Dangier
Violent Criminals Lay Siege to Costa Rica
It was a typically cool evening for Heredia in october. The rain shower had tapered off to a fine drizzle. Twenty-seven year old Evans Campos sat in his beloved old Toyota Corolla patiently waiting for the light to turn green, so he took the opportunity to fiddle with his cel’phone. Roughly a half mile to Evans’ rear, Howard Patterson Peña resident of Puerto Limón and self described “player” was on top of the world. Cruising down the boulé in his pearl white Mercedes with his pregnant chava by his side. Evans and Howard did not know one another. They had never even met, yet in just a few short precious moments they would find themselves forever connected.
Howard’s girlfriend loved to be seen in the shiny Benz. Most of the maes in her neighborhood still rode around on the same bicycles they rode back in grade school. The ones who actually went to grade school that is. They were’nt like Howard, who had a rep’ stretching from Panama City to San Jose. A stone cold gangsta. Indeed he had successfully escaped from Panama’s notorious La Joya prison only a couple years prior.
If Howard had been alone his situational awareness might have been better. He might have noticed the two helmeted guys on a Kawasaki dirt bike weaving thru traffic behind him as they steadily closed on the Benz.
The two guys on the motorcycle took up a position just a couple of feet behind the Benz’s left rear bumper. Directly in Howard’s blind spot. Traffic was light at this hour of the evening and was moving along at a leisurely pace. The bus ahead of Howard slowed to make a left turn so Howard, still unaware of the tail he’d picked up, made a smooth lane change to go around the bus. This was the opportunity the two guys on the Kawasaki had been waiting for. The motorcycle lunged forward with a burst of speed coming parallel to Howard’s closed driver-side window. That is when the alarm bell inside Howard The Player’s head began to clang.
Witnesses would later tell police that the rider on the back of the Kawasaki seemed to have difficulty in retrieving from his jacket pocket what turned out to be a 9 mm semi- automatic handgun. Immediately understanding what was happening, Howard jerked the wheel left in an attempt to ram his assailants, but to no avail. The driver of the motorcycle anticipated the move. He broke hard, downshifted then swerved to the right side of the Benz coming in line with the front passenger-side window. This time the shooter was ready. The hitman’s target was now to his left. Being right handed it made for an awkward shot, his shooting arm stretching out across his chest it was hard to line up his sights, but at this range it didn’t matter. The night suddenly erupted with the sharp crack of gunfire as the killer unloaded the weapon’s entire magazine into the shiny white Mercedes. Sixteen high velocity explosions in quick succession, reverberating off the mostly closed store fronts around them.
Ten rounds perforated the young woman and her unborn child. Howard received at least two mortal wounds himself, but the show wasn’t quite over yet. Mission accomplished the hit team abruptly swung down a side street, popping a wheelie as they did; the high pitched scream of the Kawasaki’s motor slowly faded as they climbed through the gears and disappeared into the night.
Howard who had gunned the Benz’s engine in a futile attempt to escape the ambush, was now slumped over the steering wheel dead or soon to be and so the Mercedes, without a pilot continued straight down the boulevard like a shiny one ton torpedo. The german made engine roaring; it gained speed as it went.
Transito officials would later estimate that the Benz was traveling in excess of 100 kilometers per hour by the time it covered the half mile to the street light where Evans Campos sat fiddling with his cel’ phone totally unaware of what was about to happen. The innocent young man with his whole life ahead of him was killed instantly by the impact.
Two dead and a young woman and her unborn child fight for their lives in critical condition. Howard and Evans became statistics. Numbers 582 and 583 respectively in the bloody body count of murders in Costa Rica since the beginning of this year. Nothing pura vida about that.
Since 2007 the murder rate in Costa Rica has more than doubled. The body count for 2017 was a record setting 603. If current numbers of killings continue unabated through the second half of this year as the rate was for the first six months, 2018 should top 2017’s figure by atleast twenty-three percent. If Chicago back in the day had been as violent as Costa Rica is now, Alphonse Capone would have stayed in Baltimore and happily accepted that bookkeeping gig his uncle had arranged for him at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Better a live spectator than a dead “player”. Just ask Howard.
Not only are sheer numbers of murders on the rise, but so too are the methods becoming more gruesome. This past spring nearly a dozen decapitated bodies were discovered strewn across the country including all seven provinces. Police have established no connection other than that they were, for the most part, all foreigners. One female was discovered, but her identity and nationality remain a mystery. So this is not the satanic work of a serial killer. This instead falls into the category of an all new level of
brutality for a nation known as the “Switzerland of Latin America”. Are Costa Rica’s gangs now incorporating the T.T.P.’s (tactics, techniques and procedures) of terrorists and organized crime in places like the Middle East, Colombia and Mexico?
The Organismo de Investigación Judicial (O.I.J), basically Costa Rica’s counterpart to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, have identified 987 individual drug gangs operating in tiny Ticolandia. Between january of 2010 and december 2017 O.I.J. ran 4,935 investigations in relation to drug trafficking in this country. These investigations resulted in the seizure of 23,000 kilos of cocaine, thousands of military grade weapons- mostly old Soviet Bloc guns- and tens of millions of dollars in cash and valuables.
Costa Rica’s law enforcement community is in agreement that the majority of the murders being commited in this country are in the nature of a settling of scores between competing crews and disciplinary actions against other gang members.
When taken into account the sheer numbers of gangsters along with their incredible resources from incredible profits, it becomes clear that Costa Rica’s well intentioned police force is simply too underfunded, too undertrained and too overstretched to win this war. While Costa Rica’s government is currently borrowing/ printing over half it’s operating budget there is little doubt Costa Rica’s law enforcement will soon see cuts in it’s already stretched and insufficient funds.
Evidence of what can happen when poor cops take on rich bad guys was in the southern pacific fishing village of Golfito earlier this year. O.I.J. and other police agencies rapped- up months of surveillance work when they busted the entire Costa Rica Coast Guard detachment based there along with several members of the Fuerza Publica. They are collectively facing an assortment of felonies from accepting bribes to dereliction of duty to straight -up drug trafficking among other charges. Two to one the majority of charged will not even lose their pensions. Because of massive prison overcrowding and deep corruption within Costa Rica’s justice system, it is probable that the max time any of the charged will be sentenced to will be less than ten years. That basically means more like five with good behavior.
Accepting police data citing that most murders in Costa Rica are between and for the most part limited to drug dealers, the blunt and simple truth is that the problem goes way deeper. Home invasions and kidnappings are now weekly if not daily events in Costa Rica and they’re not limited to feuds between drug clans or bad barrios.
Two recent kidnappings here have captivated the public. First is the case of sixty- two year old retired U.S citizen Thomas Cook who came to live in Costa Rica, settling into a luxury condo in the Jaco Beach area. According to Mr.Cook’s Facebook page he was excited about starting an all new chapter of his life in “this beautiful paradise”. Shortly after settling into his new home Thomas disappeared.
On 1 October, less than a month after being reported missing his badly decomposed and savagely dismembered body was discovered in a shallow grave on a farm in the caribbean coast province of Limon.
Police are focusing on the sixty- two year old’s twenty year old girlfriend. It would not be the first such case. In Costa Rica foreign gentlemen getting wacked by their wife/ girlfriend is about as rare an event as Saprissa’s soccer team winning a national title.
This past May another foreigner went missing. This time an Italian national. Fifty-two year old Stefano Collandrelli, who had a business in the Central Valley town of Escazu, and who had gone missing as well, was found naked and headless by the Rio Sucio bridge in Guapiles- Limon province. He was found in plain sight of passing traffic as if the victim had been nothing more than a bundle of garbage to those who took his life. It appears his killers lured him into a trap through the internet using an attractive nineteen year old girl from the Heredia area as bait. Motive is still unclear.
ANYBODY SEEN THE CAVALRY?
What exactly is the percentage of murders solved and perpetrators apprehended , you ask? Good question. The answer is that it depends on who you ask. The O.I.J. claims a closure rate on homicides of 70% According to a noted law professor and accredited criminologist at one of Costa Rica’s top universities (who asked to remain anonymous) the actual closure rate is closer to 10%. He actually laughed at the government’s claim.
Meanwhile law abiding citizens can only throw their hands up in exasperation. Over the last decade literally thousands of families in Costa Rica have lost loved ones to heavily armed barbarians. From a drive-by shooting at a barbershop in Pavas leaving five teenagers seriously wounded and two dead, to an elderly chinese immigrant and his two young adult sons being brutally hacked to death in broad daylight in their own place of business in Limon, to another father on the other side of the country being gunned down along with his eight year old daughter as they strolled down a country road in Tilaran. Thankfully they are expected to survive their wounds. To a young man simply waiting for a stop light to turn green on a rainy evening in Heredia, this once disneylike cartoon garden of eden is now literally a nation at war. Oh by the way, these aforementioned tragedies have all occurred in just the last four months of this year.
While the bullets fly, the body count rises and mother’s mourn, while the government verges on bankrupcy and police resources are being stretched to the limit-our valiant and brilliant protectors in the government have decided that the best course of action is to do everything in their power to deprive Juan and Juanita Q. Publico the ability to defend themselves and their families from this criminal onslaught.
A person would have to believe in free lunches, the tooth ferry, and the existance of honest politicians to believe it is a mere coincidence that as the government has incrementally restricted legal gun rights the murder rate continues to climb.
Owning a legal firearm in Costa Rica has never been a simple or cheap affair. Keep in mind no one is making a claim that honest citizens and their legally registered weapons have produced a single homicide in Costa Rica.
The process of becoming a legal gun owner in this country is a long and tedious one. From an extensive mental exam- which must be repeated every two years in accordance with permit renewal- to a lengthy and timed written exam covering proper firearm safety to legalities, to a practical and graded shooting test overseen by members of the Fuerza Publica who are deadly serious about weapons discipline and will fail you in a New York second for the slightest of errors, all the way to the eventual weapon purchase from a licensed gun dealer who must by law submit your weapon to a ballistics test done by the Ministry of Firearms and Explosives which then log the info into their data base.
While Costa Rica’s violent desperados are armed to the teeth with smuggled illegal Chicom’ and Russian military weaponry such as AK-47 assault rifles and RPG7 grenade launchers, the Gov’ seems bent on the honest folk of Costa Rica- The very people who elected them and pay their salaries- being limited to flintlock pistols and long bows for the protection of their loved ones. Mark my words, the next thing the government will try to do is limit arrow capacity to three per quiver.
Could the government be taking advantage of this astronomically high violent crime rate we are currently suffering as an excuse to cinch their continued inept and hopelessly corrupt existance? Costa Rica disbanded it’s army after the civil war of 1947-1948. Disarming the honest populace of this country would be eliminating any possibility of reigning in these political buffons and traitors to the Republic. The last obstacle.
ENTER THE AUTODEFENSAS
A phenomenon much better known in historically violent countries like Colombia and Mexico has now reached Costa Rica:“Los Autodefensas” i.e. vigilante groups dedicated to stepping-up and filling the gap in law enforcement where the government can’t or won’t provide the community with proper and deserved protection. It stands to reason that along with the level of violent criminality which was born in those violent neighboring countries, so too should proven tactics in combating that criminality follow.
Across Costa Rica these self defense civil forces of honest, tax paying, God fearing folk are popping-up like banana plants. To date none has gone nation wide. They tend to be regional numbering in membership from three or four people- neighbors-to a couple dozen. Most armed with nothing more than grit and a razor sharp machete. A few more well heeled individuals look like light infantry decked-out in body armour and tactical vests along with top of the line weaponry such as AR-15 Bushmaster rifles grandfathered in and totally legal. They patrol their communities night and day, rain or shine, when the police can not.
One particular Autodefensa organization and it’s mysterious, if not eccentric, leader from Perez Zeledón recently emerged to the public eye with a bizarre communiqué addressed to our Minister of Security, Mr. Michael Soto and his boss, President of the Republic and recently elected don Carlos Alvarado.
Calling himself “Comandante X” (I’m guessing not his given name), and representing his group “Comando de la Muerte”, or loosely translated- Commando Death Squad, Mr. X in a sometimes rambling yet always respectful dialogue, essentially advised that if the government was incapable of taking care of the problem he and his team of former police officers and “militares” could and more to the point-would. The government’s reply? What one would expect: “Thanx, but no thanx”.
DELUSION CONFUSION CONCLUSION
The government of Costa Rica has all the oversight in regards to legal gun owners and compliance they could possibly need. Of course the pezzoavanti within our establishment elite all live in gated communities and many even enjoy the taxpayer sponsored protection of armed body guards.
During a recent and ongoing nationwide strike by labor unions, scores of Costa Rica’s finest were pulled off patrols where they provide security for school kids and shopkeepers, only to be diverted to providing protection for congressmen who were literally chased out of our Asamblea by a mob of enraged union members. The luxury homes of these diputados were also provided with protection by around the clock shifts of Fuerza Publica officers.
It would seem that our government has a message for the people of Costa Rica. For those of you who do not speak weasel, roughly translated the message is: DROP YOUR PANTS AND FACE CARTAGO.
Of course there are well intentioned, clear headed people within Costa Rica’s government. Those who understand that security can never be achieved by impoverishing the country. There are elected officials here with a bit more pragmatic even libraterian point of view. Otto Guevara’s name comes to mind right off the bat.
Sadly ole Otto’s Movimiento Libertario Party is up against one big mean bureaucratic machine and their public sector union pit bulls. In fact Mr.Guevara’s party has actually lost seats in our congress over the last couple of elections. To the point that most of them now carpool to work on the same moped. Atleast you can’t blame them for global warming. To Costa Rica’s government elitists, don Otto’s message of small government and big individual freedom is about as appetizing as horseradish on a Snicker’s bar. Hell, Otto may as well be the guy who pissed in the punchbowl. He’s not top of the invitation list to any big Gov’ cocktail parties. That I can assure you.
Where this perfect storm of social and economic threats is headed and what’s in store for those intrepid individuals who call this wonderful besieged country home is hard to say. My money is on things getting worse before they get better. On the other hand nobody is happier to be wrong than a pessimist. God help us.
Updated: Fri 26 Oct 2018, 4pm
NOTE TO READER:
Although rumors abound across internet news media sites regarding missing and believed kidnapped U.S.citizen and Miami, Florida native, forty-three year old William Sean Creighton aka “Tony” aka “Tony Five Dimes” had been found this week dead here in Costa Rica, that rumor could not be confirmed by this writer as of close of business Friday 26 Oct.
Forensic experts at the national morgue in Heredia as well as our CR Post contact at O.I.J. report no such remains being discovered in the last ten days matching Mr.Creighton. And that the purportedly abducted gentleman was considered alive until they (O.I.J.) receive evidence or information pointing otherwise.
In addition the CR Post, your finger on the pulse of Costa Rica, also reached-out to officials of the U.S. Embassy here in Costa Rica for comment. An Embassy official finally after four straight hours of non-stop calls by telephone- answered their phone. (I never received an answer at the “LIFE AND DEATH” extension).
That stalwart State Department employee who wasn’t at surf camp in Playa Tamarindo said that she had not received nor heard of any report coming to the U.S.Embassy regarding the death of a U.S. citizen by that name.
At or around 10 pm of saturday 24 September of this year r.Creighton was purported to have been abducted from his late model Porche Cayenne Turbo at gun point by a group of attackers who employed a motorcycle and a red taxi in the supposed assault. The luxury vehicle was purposely wrecked by one of the kidnappers after securing the victim into the taxi.
The abduction was executed quickly and smoothly and was witnessed by several bystanders. Creighton was snatched in the San Pedro Montes de Oca section of San Jose, close to the victim’s main office. Big Tony had been traveling alone at the time of his snatching. Something law enforcement here consider unusual for a man who was reported to be worth many tens of millions of USD.
Tony is reported to be wanted in his home country on money laundering charges. For this reason and other reasons for which O.I.J. is keeping under it’s hat, the cops are not ruling out the possibility Creighton staged the abduction himself. Tony’s Sportsbook, 5Dimes.Com is one of Costa Rica’s longest running sports books.
As of press time it is reported by the local print press that family members of Mr.Creighton have paid-out in excess of one million USD in encrypted internet currency, to his kidnappers. Since his abduction no word has been heard from Mr.Creighton, nor has any sign of life been sent to the abductee’s family by his kidnappers.
Stay tuned to The CR Post for further updates.
–The opinions stated in this article are the author’s own and The Costa Rica Post would never take a bullet for Danger Nick.