Pablo Escobar’s hitman Popeye dies of cancer at 57, showing little remorse for his killings
Pablo Escobar’s former hitman Jhon Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, aka Popeye, has died of stomach cancer. The notorious killer called himself a “holy warrior” in an interview with RT and said that “taking up arms is always an option.”
Vasquez was known as the right hand of the notorious drug lord, commanding Escobar’s army of hitmen. He surrendered to Colombian law enforcement in 1992, a year before his boss was killed.
While in custody, Popeye confessed to personally committing hundreds of murders and orchestrating thousands more. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison – the highest possible sentence in Colombia at that time – for crimes including the killing of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan in 1989. He was also accused of terrorism, drug trafficking and extortion, as well as numerous murder charges.
#ComunicadoDePrensa El INPEC informa que Jhon Jairo Velásquez Vásquez, alias “Popeye” falleció en la madrugada de hoy. pic.twitter.com/acjCv5LN9s— INPEC Colombia (@INPEC_Colombia) February 6, 2020
However, Vasquez was eventually released on parole in 2014 after spending 23 years in prison. Following his imprisonment, he emerged as a media personality of sorts, uploading videos to YouTube and even starring in several films. He also wrote a book, which was later adapted for the screen by Netflix.
He also became popular as Escobar’s ally among at least some of the locals in his home city of Medellin, which was once the center of the notorious drug lord’s criminal empire.
The former assassin spoke to RT in 2017 as part of the documentary ‘Escobar’s Hitman’. There, he showed little signs of repentance as he openly confirmed that he “killed over 250 people,” admitting that he was a “professional killer” who committed crimes “out of love and respect” for Escobar. He also called himself a “holy warrior” and “expert on… all things crime,” who only “wanted to kill by… Escobar’s side.”
Following his release, he apparently turned to crime once more, as he was arrested in 2018 on charges of aggravated conspiracy and extortion. According to investigators, he sought to recover money and property left in the hands of Escobar’s drug traffickers and inherited by their relatives.
He had been held in custody ever since, but was hospitalized on December 31 because of the progressing stomach cancer to which he eventually succumbed.
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