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Puerto Rican Convict Who Escaped Caught

December 31, 2002

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ Police on Tuesday recaptured one of five convicts who escaped from prison when a helicopter swooped into their maximum security compound and spirited them away.

In the sort of escape seen in movies, the pilot later told police that two hijackers had forced him to fly to the prison, pick up the prisoners and drop them off in the central Puerto Rican countryside. The pilot then contacted police.

Police said they captured Jose Perez Rodriguez, also known as ``Tony Gatillo,″ meaning ``Tony Trigger,″ in a forest near the town of Adjuntas at about Tuesday afternoon.

Perez Rodriguez was serving a prison sentence of 319 years for two murders, including that of a police officer.

It was his second jailbreak. Authorities said he had escaped from a different facility in May and was caught three months later.

Police were still searching for the other four escaped convicts, all of whom were serving long sentences for murder and other convictions.

Authorities said they were investigating why guards didn’t prevent the men from climbing to the roof and why they didn’t shoot at the helicopter to prevent it from leaving the prison.

One corrections officer who abandoned his post during the escape was suspended, officials said. The convicts were outside during a recreation period when the helicopter arrived.

The escape mirrored another prison break more than a decade ago, known on the Caribbean island as the ``Great Escape.″

On April 7, 1991, three prisoners escaped from the Rio Piedras State Penitentiary in a hijacked helicopter with the help of accomplices. Two were recaptured, while a third remains at large.

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