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Gunmen Kill Five in Insurance Office

September 1, 1989

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Three gunmen apparently using silencers opened fire in a medical insurance office Thursday, killing five people and wounding a sixth before fleeing, police said.

Police spokeswoman Maria Rivera said the gunmen opened fire without warning in the third-story Medical Collection Services office in suburban Rio Piedras.

She said police suspected robbery was the motive. The office was ransacked, but it was not immediately known if any money was taken.

An anonymous caller, saying he represented the Medellin Cartel Group, telephoned the Associated Press late Thursday and claimed the shooting was retribution for ″the decision taken by President Bush and his allies″ to help the Colombian government’s war against drug lords.

It was impossible to verify the authenticity of the caller’s claims. Police Superintendent Ismael Betancourt said he never heard of the group, and did not speculate on whether it could be responsible for the shooting.

Betancourt said police were investigating.

The five killed were Edwin and Carmen Perez, both 36, the couple who owned Medical Collection Services, and three employees, said Jorge Valentin, who manages the building where the agency is located.

A fourth employee, Carlos Cerra, in his 50s, was seriously injured by a gunshot wound in the back of the head.

Cerra told police and reporters that the gunman knocked at the office door and immediately began shooting when he opened it. He said he was hit and then fell to the ground unconscious. He was hospitalized at the San Juan Medical Center.

No other people were in the office at the time, police said.

Since no one else in the building heard the shots, police said they believed the gunmen used silencers.

Ms. Rivera, the police spokeswoman, said officials did not know whether the gunmen stole any money from the agency, which mailed clients’ claims forms to insurance companies and received payment through checks.

The anonymous caller said six people jailed in Puerto Rico and allegedly linked to the Medellin drug cartel ″are not alone and we are ready to fight to the end because the money we obtain (from drugs) is used exclusively for the proletariat.″

The anonymous caller said the shooting ″constitutes a clear, precise and final message that we know the government will wisely understand.″

Several weeks ago the Superior Court of Carolina, on the east side of San Juan, began hearings for six peopel allegedly linked to the Medellin drug cartel.

Prosecutors claim the six dealt in $10 million worth of cocaine every week and were responsible for the March 7 shooting death of a man in Trujillo Alto, in northeast Puerto Rico.

Their trial is expected to begin in September.

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