Puerto Rico police officer shoots dead three colleagues

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[December 29, 2015]  (Reuters) - A Puerto Rico police officer shot dead three colleagues on Monday and was in critical condition after being shot himself in the police department building in the city of Ponce, authorities said.

The suspect, Guarionex Candelario Rivera, was on duty when he walked into Commander Frank Roman Rodriguez's office to speak with him, but the senior officer was unable to do so immediately and the situation escalated, Puerto Rico police spokesman Axel Valencia said.

Candelario Rivera eventually shot Roman Rodriguez, Lieutenant Luz Soto Segarra and agent Rosario Hernandez de Hoyos, he added.

Further details were still being investigated.

The Washington Post quoted officials as saying Candelario Rivera took the three fellow officers hostage, and that hostage negotiators were talking with him when he shot them.

Valencia, however, said it was too early to say whether it had been a hostage situation.

He said Candelario Rivera was shot twice, but it was unclear whether he had been shot by one of those killed or another officer.

Puerto Rico's Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and declared three days of mourning for the slain officers.

"This is a very sad day for the whole country," Garcia Padilla said in a statement. "I'm asking all Puerto Ricans to stand together and pray for the peace of these families."

Puerto Rico's El Nuevo Dia newspaper, citing the police press office, said Candelario Rivera shot the three officers after allegedly getting into an argument.

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The newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, said Candelario Rivera had at some time in the past been stripped of his weapon due to disciplinary and emotional problems and assigned to a job at police headquarters in Ponce, on the south side of the island.

The newspaper said Candelario Rivera wanted to return to his former job as a patrol officer, according to those sources.

(Reporting by Nick Brown; Writing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay; Editing by Howard Goller, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bill Rigby)

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