SAN JUAN – With heads bowed and surrounded by heavily armed police, the first suspects arrested nearly a decade after the fatal shooting of renowned Puerto Rico boxer Héctor Camacho appeared in court Wednesday to face murder charges.
Five men are accused in the slaying of the fighter nicknamed “Macho Camacho” and a friend while they sat in a Ford Mustang outside a bar in November 2012, a killing that shocked many who revered the boxer.
Three of the suspects were serving federal sentences for unrelated crimes and were flown in from Florida as part of what police called “Operation Knockout.” A fourth suspect was arrested in the pre-dawn hours in the same city where Camacho was killed, emerging with only a towel wrapped around his waist just minutes after police with long weapons surrounded his house and knocked on a window. A fifth suspect remains in a Puerto Rico prison for an unrelated case.
Authorities said two other suspects were killed in unrelated events in 2013 and 2015.
Hours after the suspects were charged, Camacho’s elderly mother strode into Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice and raised her right fist.
“Justice! Justice has been done!” she exclaimed as her voice broke.
Camacho, 50, was shot in the face and was clinically brain dead but remained on life support for several days after the shooting as relatives debated what to do while supporters stood vigil outside the hospital.
Former Puerto Rico boxer Víctor Callejas, a close friend of Camacho, told The Associated Press that it was extremely important to him that several suspects were finally charged in the case as he continues to mourn the fighter: “He was not the type of person who sought enemies. To the contrary, he was always looking to make people laugh one way or another. He was a unique character.”
Police said Camacho was shot once while outside a bar called “Azuquita” in the northern city of Bayamón, sitting in a car with a friend identified as Adrián Mojica Moreno, who had nine small bags of cocaine in his pocket and a 10th bag that was open. Moreno also was shot one time.
Janet Parra, a public prosecutor who oversees the justice department’s division of organized crime and drugs, said she could not reveal the motive behind the killing or share any evidence. However, she said authorities pursued every tip received, noting that sometimes it led them to a dead end.
“We didn’t remain with our arms crossed,” she said.
Jessika Correa, who oversees public prosecutors, added that she was satisfied with the arrests: “This case shook (the island) ... A star of Puerto Rico boxing died.”
The suspects were identified as William Rodríguez Rodríguez, Luis Ayala García and Joshua Méndez Romero, who are being held on an $800,000 bond. The fourth suspect was identified as Jesús Naranjo Adorno, being held on a $300,000 bond. The fifth was identified as Juan Figueroa Rivera, held on a $1 million bond.
Their attorneys could not be immediately reached for comment.
“They gave me justice,” said Camacho’s mother. “I can sleep in peace. I can eat and drink a little cup of coffee in the morning.”