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Escazú hostage standoff ends, 4 would-be burglars arrested

January 23, 2012

Police arrested four armed burglars Monday afternoon after a failed home invasion ended in a five-hour hostage situation in the southwestern San José suburb of Escazú. Police surrounded the home located in the Bello Horizonte neighborhood of Escazú at 11:30 a.m., after being tipped off by a worker who managed to escape the house and alerted authorities.

The homeowner, U.S. citizen Thomas Sweeney, 71, was injured in the standoff and was taken to San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, with visible injuries to his face. An employee of Sweeney’s was also released and taken to hospital after being held by gunmen. The employee held hostage, who suffered minor injuries during the ordeal, is Jeannette Álvarez, 63.

One of the alleged gunmen was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The standoff ended at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday. On Tuesday, the suspects were sentenced to six months of preventative prison while the case moves toward a trial.

Just before midday, assailants entered Sweeney’s home in an apparent robbery, according to Marisel Rodríguez, a spokeswoman for the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ). Police responded quickly, and OIJ negotiators were able to convince the gunmen to turn themselves in after hours of negotiation. The men had asked for cigarettes and food.

A Red Cross team, several ambulances and multiple units of the OIJ and National Police responded to the incident.

Henrry Mora, 29, who was working in an adjacent property at the time of the invasion, said he heard a dog barking and saw two men enter the home. He also saw a taxi arrive, which remained in front of the house in an area cordoned off by police. Mora said he was asked by police to leave the area.

“The situation is totally under control thanks to the negotiations of our OIJ agents, who were able to negotiate [with the gunmen] and free the hostages [who are] in relatively good condition,” Rodríguez said. “Although he wasn’t seriously injured, one of the hostages did receive a blow when the assailants entered the home.”

The suspects in the thwarted robbery have the last names of Borden, Castro, López and Rodríguez. Borden was arrested four months ago and obtained conditional release from jail. He was required to spend one night per week in a Puntarenas jail, the daily La Nación reported.

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