A bullet-scarred farmhouse where the fugitive leader of a militant Puerto Rican nationalist group was killed in a shootout with FBI agents is a historical site deserving preservation, a mayor in this U.S. territory said Wednesday.
Pedro Garcia, the mayor of Hormigueros, the mountain town where Filiberto Ojeda Rios was killed in September 2005, said he and the widow of the dead man are in the early stages of discussions that
may transform the farmhouse into a museum.
"We need to open that house so that the future generations can see what can't possibly be repeated on our island," said Garcia, who is a member of Puerto Rican political party that supports maintaining the island's commonwealth status.
Ojeda's widow, Elma Beatriz Rosado, who was at the farmhouse
during the gunfight but escaped unharmed, could not immediately be
Ojeda was the leader of a militant group that claimed responsibility for bombings and attacks in the 1970s and 1980s aimed at gaining independence for Puerto Rico from the United States. In one of the attacks, gunmen opened fire in 1979 on a bus carrying U.S. sailors, killing two and wounding 10.
FBI agents shot the 72-year-old fugitive during a raid to arrest him for the 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo armored truck depot in West Hartford, Connecticut. He had fled while free on bond but was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 55 years in prison for the heist.
In the intervening years, Ojeda became something of a folk hero among some Puerto Ricans. He would occasionally grant interviews to reporters on the island and his recorded speeches were played at pro-independence rallies. His death sparked protests throughout the U.S. island.
Ojeda's widow accused the FBI of firing first, a charge the U.S. agency denied.
In August 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General concluded in a 237-page report that FBI agents were justified in shooting Ojeda. It said Ojeda shot three agents during the raid and one of them was seriously wounded.
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