- REUTERS/Christian Veron
Oscar Perez, a rogue police officer and pilot who stole a helicopter and attacked buildings in Caracas with grenades last year, was reportedly killed on Monday in a police operation against the group he led, Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said on Tuesday.
Reverol said six other members of a “terrorist cell” were also killed.
Venezuelan special forces also captured five members of the group Perez was leading. In the hours after the operation, it wasn’t clear if Oscar Perez himself had been killed or captured. Photos emerged on social media purporting to show Perez’s body at the site of the confrontation.
Two officers were killed and five seriously injured during a shootout with Perez and his comrades, the Ministry of Interior Relations said in another statement.
- Thomson Reuters
“The members of this terrorist cell who conducted armed resistance were taken down and five criminals captured and detained,” the statement said.
Earlier Monday, Perez, 36, posted video clips showing blood dripping across his face as the sound of gunfire rang in the background. Perez said officers were firing at the group and wanted to kill him instead of permitting his surrender.
“We’re going to turn ourselves in!” Perez shouted.
Perez leaped into the spotlight in June when he staged a dramatic helicopter attack in Caracas, lobbing grenades at the Supreme Court and Interior Ministry buildings in broad daylight.
No one was injured in the incidents and Perez managed to flee before authorities swarmed in.
The attack came after a three-month period of anti-government protests during which dozens were killed. Perez’s actions fueled theories among opposition supporters that he may been part of a government setup to draw attention away from the country’s political turmoil. The Venezuelan government accused Perez of having links to the CIA.
A few weeks after the attack, Perez appeared at an opposition vigil marking the deaths of people killed in the protests.
- Thomson Reuters
In numerous videos posted on Instagram, Perez claimed that he was fighting for Venezuela’s freedom from a tyrannical government that is starving its people. He gained tens of thousands of followers online and piqued the curiosity of Venezuelans who either hailed him as hero, condemned him as a criminal, or questioned if he might be a ruse to support President Nicolas Maduro’s assertion that the nation is under attack by opposition conspirators.
Adding to the intrigue is Perez’s unusual past, which combined work as a highly trained officer, an action-movie actor, pilot and dog trainer.
In December, Perez posted videos showing him and a small armed band taking over a military outpost and smashing a portrait of Maduro with his foot. Perez and the assailants berated several detained guardsmen for doing nothing to help their fellow citizens suffering from hunger.
Maduro responded in the following days, vowing to meet Perez with bullets.