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Gunman Kills Mother, 27 Others in Colombia Rampage, Is Shot Dead

December 06, 1986|From Times Wire Services

BOGOTA, Colombia — A self-described Vietnam veteran shot his mother to death, set her body afire, killed six neighbors, strolled down the street to a restaurant for dinner, paid his tab, and shot 21 fellow diners to death "with chilling calmness," officials said Friday.

Before embarking on the bloody rampage Thursday night that ended in his own death, 52-year-old Campo Elias Delgado told friends he was taking a trip "to the other side."

Officials were not sure whether the gunman killed himself or was shot by police.

In all, 29 people died--including Delgado and a 6-year-old girl--and 15 were wounded, two critically, authorities said.

Kept Medals in Bedroom

Delgado's relatives said he was an electronics engineer who had served in a parachute squadron in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. They said he kept medals from the war in his bedroom.

But in Washington, Pentagon officials said they were unable to find any records indicating Delgado had served with U.S. military forces in Vietnam.

A woman named Clemencia said she and her husband saw Delgado a few hours before the bloody rampage.

'Going to the Other Side'

"Campo Elias told us about 7 that night that he loved us very much and that he would soon be going on a trip," she said. "He wouldn't tell me where he was going. He only said he'd be going to the other side."

Most of his victims were dining in an expensive restaurant when Delgado entered, calmly had a meal and some drinks, then began shooting with two handguns, firing as many as 400 rounds of ammunition in 30 minutes, police and witnesses said.

Authorities said the killing spree began in the apartment Delgado shared with his mother, Rita Delgado. He killed her, wrapped her body in a blanket and set it on fire, then shot six other women to death in the same building.

Officials who appeared on the scene reportedly were distracted by the spreading fire, and Delgado escaped, authorities said. He went a few blocks to Pozzeto, an expensive Italian restaurant that he reportedly had frequented for more than a year.

'Shooting in All Directions'

"First he ate, then asked for the bill," a waiter told reporters. "Then he asked for two drinks and, after paying the bill, he stood up and began shooting in all directions."

Investigative Judge Luceli Echeverri de Henao said Delgado committed the murders "with chilling calmness," carefully aiming at the heads of many of the victims.

"Many had wounds in the forehead," she said.

Delgado, who reportedly carried the two guns and a knife in a briefcase and had extra ammunition strapped around his waist, "fired at everything that moved," a restaurant employee said.

"Panic broke out immediately," Judge Echeverri said.

"Men ran, women threw themselves to the floor," she said. "He was very fast with the guns. He was totally professional. People were falling one by one on the floor of the restaurant, some dying immediately and others seriously wounded."

Reportedly Wounded in War

People who identified themselves as acquaintances of Delgado said his Vietnam service ended when he was wounded in the war, but that he lived for a time in the United States making a marginal living repairing electronic equipment.

Saul Serrato, a friend, told Caracol radio, "His experience in the war in Vietnam seems to have been very negative because he hated violence."

"He was quiet, cold, calculating and uncommunicative," one person said in describing him.

Delgado's acquaintance Clemencia said Delgado had once told her he was married twice--once in Argentina and the second time in the United States.

She said Delgado, who had always been very polite and nice to her, twice gave her as a present copies of Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," which he seemed to like very much.

The novel--first published exactly 100 years ago--tells of a mild-mannered scientist who turns into the murderous Mr. Hyde as a result of experiments.

'No Feeling of Guilt'

"He (Delgado) typically showed no feeling of guilt. He acted his own fantasy but was obviously prepared to die," psychologist Guillermo Valencia told Caracol radio, as experts tried to explain the murderous frenzy that shocked a country already used to street crime and guerrilla violence.

According to Serrato, Delgado had lived in Germany, France and the United States, returning to Colombia two years ago. He said Delgado planned to return to Germany because of guerrilla violence here and the many street robberies in Bogota.

Serrato said Delgado taught English at his apartment, studied French at the Colombian-French Institute and attended science classes at the Javeriana University, a Roman Catholic school in Bogota.

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