A Puerto Rico policeman fatally shot two high-ranking officers and a policewoman on Monday following an argument at work that temporarily shut down the station in the U.S. territory’s second largest city, authorities said. The suspect was immediately placed under arrest.
The suspect held a female lieutenant, a male commander and a policewoman hostage in an office before he killed them, police spokeswoman Mayra Ayala told The Associated Press. Other police officials identified the officer as Guarionex Candelario.
Ayala said authorities were about to start negotiations with the suspect when the victims were killed. She said police did not yet have information on a motive.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla told reporters that the suspect was injured during the shooting and remains hospitalized. Padilla declined to say what kind of injuries the officer received and how they were inflicted.
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“This is a very tragic situation that appalls us all especially because it occurred during the holidays,” said police spokesman Axel Valencia.
The shooting occurred inside the lieutenant’s office at the police headquarters in the southern coastal city of Ponce. Authorities evacuated the station to investigate threats of a possible explosive device in the suspect’s car, but they did not say whether anything was found.
Police said at a press conference that the suspect previously had been stripped of his weapon but received a psychological evaluation nearly two years ago and his weapon was returned. Authorities declined to provide any other details, saying the investigation was barely starting.
“Ponce is in mourning,” Mayor Maria Melendez said in a statement. “May God give the family members of the police officers involved the strength, fortitude and serenity to absorb this news.”
Ayala said the suspect worked in the anti-drug division. Officials said the victims were Lt. Luz Soto Segarra and Cmdr. Frank Roman, both 49, and policewoman Rosario Hernandez. Soto’s husband also was a police lieutenant, said Jose Cruz Martinez, vice president of the Puerto Rican Police Union.
Soto and Roman each had been with Puerto Rico’s police department for more than 20 years, said Cruz, adding that they had been his friends for 15 years.
“They were both excellent people,” Cruz said in a phone interview. “They were always supportive of their coworkers.”
Cruz said he and his wife would occasionally go on motorcycle road trips with Soto and her husband, who lived in the nearby town of Yauco. He said Roman was originally from the western town of Mayaguez.
“He rarely had any time off,” Cruz said of Roman.
Valencia said Roman was named Commander of the Year for Ponce in 2014.
Puerto Rico’s police force is one of the largest in a U.S. jurisdiction.