Career criminal dies in shootout with police officers

Two men stuck up a Guadalupe bar early Wednesday, pistol-whipped the patrons and fled into a shootout with police. One of the robbery suspects died, and the second was hospitalized.

Also in the hospital was one of the policemen involved, identified as José Oviedo Ávila, who is being praised as a hero.

In an unrelated incident, judicial agents shot it out with a group of men in Hatillo, and one of the suspects suffered a fatal wound.

The shootout in El Alto de Guadalupe north of San José ended the criminal career of a man identified by the last names of Díaz Vargas who has been in trouble with the law since he was a juvenile offender in 1992, said the Fuerza Pública. The two men had been arrested a total of 40 times, said the police agency. Díaz, 23, did time for robbery and murder, the agency added.

Police said the shootout ended a crime wave in Coronado, Moravia and Guadalupe.

The shooting happened about 1 a.m. The second suspect, identified by the last names of Cruz López, suffered a wound to the back, police said.

Both men were on a motorcycle when police ordered them to halt not far from the bar. Instead, one of the men, believed to be Díaz, began shooting, police said.

Oviedo, the police officer, took one bullet in the chest but was spared injury by a protective vest. The most serious wound was to the neck for which he was undergoing an operation Wednesday. He was reported later to be in stable condition. Another unidentified police officer also was involved.

Juan Carlos Arias, deputy director of the Fuerza
Pública, said that officers recovered a .38-caliber firearm believed used in the robbery. Police also have a bulletin on the motorcycle the men were using as the result of information from witnesses at other robberies. They also found items taken from the bar patrons, they said.

Some of the bar patrons were treated because they had been hit in the head with the gun butt, police said.

Judicial agents are investigating the case.

The Fuerza Pública said that Díaz had been in trouble since 1992 when he faced an armed aggression charge. He still was a minor in 1995 when he was investigated for theft and aggravated robbery. His record shows that he was detained 30 times, said the Fuerza Pública, and that in 1997 he was sentenced to four years for aggravated robbery.

He served a lesser term because he was again held for aggravated robbery in 2000 and confined Jan. 18, 2001, on a murder charge, the agency said.

The second suspect, Cruz, has arrests for aggravated robbery and had been detained in Nicoya and Quepos on drug charges in 2008 and 2010, said the Fuerza Pública. This year he was detained for investigation of carrying an illegal knife.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the shootout in Hatillo resulted in the death of a 22-year-old man with the last name of Vega. He suffered a bullet wound in the chest during the confrontation with judicial agents. He died a short time later at Hospital San Juan de Dios.

The agents involved were robbery investigators, judicial police said..

The shooting happened in the Ciudadela 15 de Setiembre section of Hatillo on the south side of San José. That case also is under investigation.

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