Is there something Pablo's death scene isn't saying?

Extradited Colombia paramilitary leader and mafia boss Diego Fernando Murillo, alias "Don Berna," has claimed his brother fired the shot that killed infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, adding a new twist to rumors that have been circulating for years about Escobar's death. 

In a new book titled This Is How We Killed the BossDon Berna claims that he and other members of the People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (PEPES) -- a group of drug traffickers and paramilitaries he helped form with the objective of hunting down the Medellin Cartel leader -- were with the police that located Escobar on December 2, 1993 and surrounded the premises.

Berna's men then radioed Police Major Hugo Aguilar, who was in charge of the operation, to inform him they had found Escobar, according to his account.

Aguilar was caught in traffic, so Lieutenant Hugo Martinez Bolivar made the decision to enter the residence, taking Escobar and the one bodyguard with him, alias "Limon," completely by surprise. 

When Escobar exited the building through a window in an attempt to flee across the neighbors' rooftop, Berna claims his brother Rodolfo, alias "Semilla," shot him in the head with a 5.56 caliber M-16 rifle. 

Aguilar arrived soon afterwards, congratulated the men, and asked Berna to leave the premises because it was "not convenient" for him to be seen there, recounted the former paramilitary, who has been held in prison in the United States since 2008.

InSight Crime Analysis

The role of the PEPES in hunting down Escobar has long been a murky and controversial side to the story of Escobar's demise.

In the 2001 book "Killing Pablo," author Mark Bowden highlighted how official documents indicate the US-trained Colombian Search Bloc responsible for finding Escobar closely cooperated with the PEPES, even carrying out joint operations with them in the lead-up to Escobar's death. 

SEE ALSO: Don Berna Profile

For years, there have been whispers that the PEPES directly participated in the police operation resulting in Escobar's death, and a former paramilitary made similar claims as Murillo's in 2011. However, another co-founder of the PEPES -- late paramilitary leader Fidel Castaño -- rejected this idea in a 1994 interview with Semana.

While the truth about Escobar's death may never be known, Don Berna was a powerful underworld figure who played a central role in the PEPES and so his account deserves serious consideration. 

Berna's role in the Escobar saga began with his work as the security chief for the Galeano family, associates of Escobar's Medellin Cartel. When Escobar had the Galeano brothers killed for failing to pay him their dues, Murillo sought revenge by forming the PEPES with the Castaño brothers. After Escobar's death, he took over hired assassin network the Oficina de Envigado, which became Medellin's most powerful drug trafficking structure, and later served as a paramilitary boss in various departments.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...