A man suffering psychiatric problems and a friend whom he had taken hostage died on Tuesday in a horrific incident on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Three policemen were wounded in the gory incident lasting over 10 hours in the Tres de Febrero neighbourhood of Caseros.
Alejandro Maldonado, 47, had dug in at his house in the 3900 block of Tres de Febrero Street, firing at least 300 shots at the policemen who had surrounded the location.
The incident, which began around 11pm on Monday night, ended after 9.30am the next morning when officers of the crack Halcón unit burst into the house, gunned down the assailant and found his friend José Cáceres, 42, dead, apparently murdered by Maldonado several hours beforehand.
According to the forensic police, Cáceres had long been dead inside the home of Maldonado, who reportedly had abducted him at gunpoint following a dinner with friends.
"He had been dead for five or six hours," said Buenos Aires Province Security Minister Sergio Berni in the immediate aftermath, assuring that Maldonado "was out of control with paranoid delirium" and that "every instance [of negotiation] proved negative."
Sources from Berni’s portfolio confirmed that the wounded officers belonged to the UTOI (Unidad Táctica de Operaciones Inmediatas) squad and that two of them had been admitted to the Ramón Carrillo Hospital in Ciudadela.
"There are three policemen wounded, one of whom needs an operation," said Berni, who explained that the attack originated from gender violence when Maldonado, in the midst of a dinner with friends, lost his temper and tried to strangle his wife Paula, who fainted.
The assailant then revived the woman via CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), whereupon she escaped from the house along with her young son and the other dinner guests.
In the small hours of Tuesday, Maldonado fired over 300 shots at security forces, allegedly telling a female psychologist who tried to negotiate with him: "I’m armed for the third world war."
Tension and violence
Hours of tension and violence gripped the region in the 10-hour ordeal, during which every instance of negotiation failed, according to Berni, because Maldonado, a man with a criminal and psychiatric record and a known drug addict, he said, replied to everything with gunfire.
Eventually, the Halcón police officers knocked down a wall and burst into the place. Maldonado confronted the policemen with a pistol in each hand and was finally gunned down.
In the final exchange of gunfire, the man hit three policemen – one took the splinter of a bullet in the head, another was shot through the chest and the most seriously wounded was hit in the groin and remained in serious condition – all three were rushed to hospital.
"These are actions which vindicate all policemen and policewomen who risk their lives to protect the rights of others," said Berni from the doorway of the Ramón Carrillo Hospital.
He confirmed that the most seriously wounded policeman was an inspector and that he was already on the operating table. The attacker “was totally out of his mind," said the minister.
Maldonado’s brother Alberto explained that his brother did not work "because he made money out of politics canvassing votes at a club" and also that "he enjoyed judicial protection" due to his partner’s contacts.
"This hurts me a lot but my brother was sick," said the sibling, grieved by the fruitless efforts of the family to try and help him.
UFI (Unidad Funcional de Instrucción) 7 prosecutor Diana Mayko of the Judicial Department of San Martín is in charge of the case.