HomeNewsBriefWho Really Killed Pablo Escobar?
BRIEF

Who Really Killed Pablo Escobar?

COLOMBIA / 29 JUL 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Extradited Colombia paramilitary leader and mafia boss Diego Fernando Murillo, alias “Don Berna,” has claimed his brother fired the shot that killed infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, adding a new twist to rumors that have been circulating for years about Escobar’s death. 

In a new book titled This Is How We Killed the BossDon Berna claims that he and other members of the People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar (PEPES) — a group of drug traffickers and paramilitaries he helped form with the objective of hunting down the Medellin Cartel leader — were with the police that located Escobar on December 2, 1993 and surrounded the premises.

Berna’s men then radioed Police Major Hugo Aguilar, who was in charge of the operation, to inform him they had found Escobar, according to his account.

Aguilar was caught in traffic, so Lieutenant Hugo Martinez Bolivar made the decision to enter the residence, taking Escobar and the one bodyguard with him, alias “Limon,” completely by surprise. 

When Escobar exited the building through a window in an attempt to flee across the neighbors’ rooftop, Berna claims his brother Rodolfo, alias “Semilla,” shot him in the head with a 5.56 caliber M-16 rifle. 

Aguilar arrived soon afterwards, congratulated the men, and asked Berna to leave the premises because it was “not convenient” for him to be seen there, recounted the former paramilitary, who has been held in prison in the United States since 2008.

InSight Crime Analysis

The role of the PEPES in hunting down Escobar has long been a murky and controversial side to the story of Escobar’s demise.

In the 2001 book “Killing Pablo,” author Mark Bowden highlighted how official documents indicate the US-trained Colombian Search Bloc responsible for finding Escobar closely cooperated with the PEPES, even carrying out joint operations with them in the lead-up to Escobar’s death. 

SEE ALSO: Don Berna Profile

For years, there have been whispers that the PEPES directly participated in the police operation resulting in Escobar’s death, and a former paramilitary made similar claims as Murillo’s in 2011. However, another co-founder of the PEPES — late paramilitary leader Fidel Castaño — rejected this idea in a 1994 interview with Semana.

While the truth about Escobar’s death may never be known, Don Berna was a powerful underworld figure who played a central role in the PEPES and so his account deserves serious consideration. 

Berna’s role in the Escobar saga began with his work as the security chief for the Galeano family, associates of Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. When Escobar had the Galeano brothers killed for failing to pay him their dues, Murillo sought revenge by forming the PEPES with the Castaño brothers. After Escobar’s death, he took over hired assassin network the Oficina de Envigado, which became Medellin’s most powerful drug trafficking structure, and later served as a paramilitary boss in various departments.

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