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Killing of boy at hotel pool raises concerns in Puerto Rico

05 July 2016, 20:16

San Juan - A 10-year-old boy died after being shot in the head near the pool of a well-known Puerto Rico hotel, sparking concerns about a rise in killings in the U.S. territory.

The shootout late Monday at the Hotel Caribe Hilton scattered tourists and local residents gathered there to celebrate July 4th. The hotel is located next to an 18th-century fort as well as an expanding commercial area featuring high-end restaurants and boutiques.

Ferdinand Perez, a former Puerto Rico legislator, told reporters he was at the hotel with his family when he the boy was shot. He said people began to run toward the elevators and hide under stairs.

Injured in the shooting was the boy's father and another man whom police say had a criminal record and may have been targeted. No one has been arrested, and police are reviewing hotel video surveillance tapes to determine who may have been involved, police agent Israel Arroyo said by telephone.

"We are terribly saddened by this tragic news," the hotel said in a statement, adding that the safety of guests is a top priority and that officials are reviewing security protocols.

Also read: Police confirm murder of abducted boy in Kano 

Hotel spokeswoman Betty Gonzalez did not return messages for additional comment.

Perez said he would support legislation calling for metal detectors being placed at hotels during big events.

Monday's killing of Michael Romero Rivera is one of 333 slayings reported in Puerto Rico so far this year, an increase of 54 killings compared with the same period last year.

Prior to the boy's death, police had already reported 11 killings and 12 shooting-related injuries over the July 4th weekend, prompting Police Chief Jose Caldero to announce he was assigning more resources to cities including the capital, San Juan.

The increase in killings in recent months follows a drop in slayings on an island of 3.5 million people that reported a record 1,164 murders in 2011. Officials have previously said they believe more than 70 percent of killings are drug-related.

- AP


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