Honduran Congress approves rewards for information leading to criminal suspects

The legislation calls for the Department of Security to develop a list of “most wanted” criminals and to disseminate photos of the suspects through the press. The department would offer a reward for information leading the capture of each suspect.
Iris Amador | 7 July 2014

Transnational Threats

Homicide suspect: Honduran National Police captured Héctor Orlando Cruz Ríos, who is known as “The Panther,” on Feb. 6. The Panther is suspected of killing bank security guard Jonathan Perdomo during a robbery. Police agents also captured 10 other suspects after President Juan Orlando Hernández announced a reward for information leading to Perdomo’s killers. [Photo: O Manzano]

The Honduran Congress has passed a “Reward Law” which will allow the National Police to pay people for information leading the capture of suspected killers. The legislation would allow the National Police to determine the amount of each reward.

The Congress approved the legislation on April 9. Congress must debate and vote on the legislation a second time and publish it in a newspaper before it becomes a law.

The legislation calls for the Department of Security to develop a list of “most wanted” criminals and to disseminate photos of the suspects through the press. The department would offer a reward for information leading the capture of each suspect. The legislation would allow the Department of Security to determine the amount of each reward.

Bank security guard is killed

Congress passed the reward law two months after reward money helped authorities catch the suspected killers of a bank security guard.

On Feb. 1, Jonathan Perdomo, a security guard at a financial institution in Choloma, in the department of Cortés, opened the door for a man he apparently believed was a client. The encounter was captured by a bank surveillance camera.

The man was carrying a black suitcase over his shoulder. Following bank safety protocols, Perdomo asked to see what was in the suitcase. The man pulled out a handgun, pointed at the guard, and fired, the videotape showed. The first shot missed Perdomo, who fell as he tried to brandish his own weapon to defend himself.

The man with the handgun shoots Perdomo, then a second man steps in and shoots the security guard in the head.

Thirty five-year-old Perdomo was working as a security guard in a financial institution in Choloma, Cortés, north Honduras, when he was mercilessly gunned down the morning of Saturday February 1st.

As bank clients run to take cover, the first attacker jumps a counter to grab money. Minutes later, the two attackers walk from the bank at a leisurely pace. They allegedly escaped on motorcycles, with two accomplices who were waiting outside the bank.

Suspect captured after president announces reward

Following the brazen attack, President Juan Orlando Hernández publicly announced the police were offering a $12,500 (USD) reward for information leading to the attackers. In a televised speech, the president said he would personally add to the reward money.

Speaking directly to the killers, the president said, “Ask God and your families to forgive you, leave the country if you want, but you will not continue your rampage here; I repeat, the party is over for you.”

Once the president announced the reward, the National Police hotline started ringing. Several calls were false leads, but soon enough they were steered in the right direction.

Five days after the killing, on Feb. 6th, police agents from the National Direction of Criminal Investigation captured 11 members of the gang suspected of planning and committing the bank robbery.

One of the suspects, Héctor Orlando Cruz Ríos, who is also known as “The Panther,” is one of the alleged gunmen.” When police captured The Panther, he was allegedly wearing the same brownish tennis shoes one of the gunmen who shot Perdomo was wearing.

Police captured The Panther in El Progreso, a city that is about a 45-minute drive from Choloma. The Panther is allegedly the first man who attacked Perdomo.

The Panther had previously served 13 years in prison for robbing a bank in La Lima, Cortés.

The Panther allegedly confessed to killing Perdomo.

Police also captured Joel Bardales Chapas, 25, an engineering student. A few hours after the robbery, gang members allegedly gathered at the home of Bardalas Chapas’s parents in El Progreso to divide the stolen money.

Bardalas Chapas also confessed to taking part in the robbery, authorities said. He said he participated because he needed money to cover the expenses of his upcoming graduation.

The Reward Law

Congressman Mario Pérez, who serves as vice president of that legislative body, introduced a bill to broaden the compensation-for-information system in the country shortly after police captured the suspects in the killing of Perdomo.

In addition to providing funds for rewards, the legislation reinforces security measures to protect the safety of people who provide information to the police. It also mandates that national news agencies publish, free of charge, the names of “most wanted” criminal suspects and their photos or artist sketches of what they look like.

Law enforcement personnel and their relatives are not eligible for the rewards.

Rewards could encourage people, including some criminals, to provide information to the police, said Billy Joya, a private security consultant.

“Usually information comes from the same delinquency underworld,” Joya said. “There is a pattern of conduct, in which another criminal knows the person, someone might have an account to settle with them, or even a member of his own circle turns him in. Authorities take advantage of that game of disloyalty.”

“In an investigation process which has to cover steps from ‘a’ to ‘z’, a compensation is a gamble that can be made, one of several resources to be employed, but it is the sum of the elements that results in a successful outcome.”

Rewards can be an effective tool in the fight against crime, Joya said. Each case is particular and the same investigative approach does not work in every case, he cautioned.

Perdomo was survived by his parents, his pregnant wife, and their four children.

“My father died working to bring us food,” Perdomo’s 14-year-old son said in an interview with the TV news show Frente a Frente

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