The Man with the Rifle

Could a serial killer really be on the loose in Barquisimeto?

“So, have you heard about ‘The Man with the Rifle’ — el hombre del rifle?”

A middle-aged man goes to a bakery in downtown Barquisimeto. His wife waits for him in the car. Suddenly, he falls in the ground. His wife comes to his aid. He’s been shot in the head. He dies shortly after in a private clinic.

This happened one week ago, right in broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon right on Vargas Avenue, one of the busiest in Barquisimeto.

Maybe it was a robbery gone awry? Or a stray bullet from a nearby shooting?

No and no.

Someone in my hometown is killing people at random just because he likes it and probably won’t get caught. Fantastic.

“A guy shot him with a rifle from a car”. My brother-in-law tells me. “A caliber .22 rifle, most likely”.

Apparently, this isn’t an isolated case. Several weeks ago, three men were killed nearby in just a matter of hours. The same bullet caliber and the same M.O. points at “The Man with the Rifle”. That’s what people are calling him.

Just the idea of a serial sniper felt alien to me, even in a violent country like Venezuela. It feels more like something that could happen in the U.S.A. As a matter of fact, it did 14 years ago.

My sister tells me they first heard the story from the social networks. That gave me pause. “Maybe this is all exaggerated”, I thought to myself. “No way, there’s some serial sniper in Barquisimeto, of all places, right?”

24 hours after that conversation, the local media confirmed that “The Man with the Rifle” was indeed responsible for the crime.

According to reports, “The Man with the Rifle” started his killing spree last year. Details are sketchy, but it appears he has killed at least six people. The only connection between the victims is they’re all male. It seems like he picks them out at random. He uses a car to commit his crimes and has a driving accomplice.

So far, there’s not a single physical description of the sniper.

Local authorities are on the case. They even called for back-up investigators from the capital.

Then things really started to get weird. “The Man with the Rifle” started to taunt them over the weekend: Two young men were shot near the site known as “Flor of Venezuela”. At least, that gave them a new lead. The suspect’s alleged vehicle is a Gray or Silver Toyota Corolla.

However, other witnesses’ accounts say that a while vehicle was used in previous incidents.

Outside of some newspapers and websites, the story has hardly make it to the local airwaves. With rising bus fares, food shortages and political polarization, viewers have their share of bad news.

But on social networks, “The Man with the Rifle” is dominating. For people who are already scared of going out even in daytime, a serial sniper is just too much.

If you think there’s not enough information about this case, you have a point. The silence from the authorities (both local and national) is deafening. Part of me think this is understandable: you don’t want to cause unnecessary panic and derail an ongoing investigation.

But let’s not forget this is the same central government that puts fences around morgues and allows intelligence agents to harass journalists in order to stop publishing damaging crime statistics. So, this is not surprising at all. At least, not for me.

Summing up: someone in my hometown is killing people at random just because he likes it and probably won’t get caught. Fantastic.