Q COSTA RICA – It was 7:20am, two men outside the Mountview private school in Guachipelin de Escazu, dressed in tracksuits are exercising, two vehicles approach the school, a typical morning school drop-off.
As the lead vehicle, a Toyota Lexus, driven by Elias Akl, 44, a Lebanese national, approaches the gate, the two men pulled out weapons and began shooting at the vehicles.
The foreigner is hit, crashes through the gate, loses control and slams into a wall and the vehicle catches fire. He dies at the scene. His young daughter is unhurt.
In the process, a 6 year old boy hit by a stray bullet and run over by the out of control vehicle and is seriously hurt. The boy continues under observation at the Children’s Hospital (Hospital Nacional de Niños) in San Jose.
The escort vehicle manages to escape the scene and heads to the nearest police station, located in Pozos de Santa Ana. There one of the bodyguards, Angel Amado Blanco Hidalgo, a 23 year-old Costa Rican, dies from a gunshot wound sustained during the shoot out.
Monday night, the Investigación Judicial (OIJ) released images of the attackers caught on the school’s security cameras at the moment of the attack.
Authorities say the attack was well planned out and executed, the two shooters getting away on two motorcycles driven by two others waiting.
The OIJ has not divulged the motive for the attack. But they do make the connection, saying that Akl was one of those who managed to flee police during a raid in a bar in Los Yoses de Monte de Oca (San Pedro) earlier this month.
According to the Minister of Security, Gustavo Mata, Akl fled the bar and left behind a luxury vehicle where police seized several weapons. The following day, Akl returned for the vehicle presenting what authorities now know was a false Israeli passport under the name of Moshe Rozenfeld, the same document he used to enter Costa Rica, by way of the Peñas Blancas border with Nicaragua, in February 2011.
Mata explained that police had been called in to the Bar Nova following reports that there were heavily armed men in the area.
Who was Elias Akl and his brother Ziad?
According to a CBC report, we learn that the two brothers have been on the lam since December 2009, when an alleged dispute in an after hours club in Laval (Quebec) escalated, leaving a bouncer at the Red Lite club badly beaten and suffering from stab wounds.
In a report in the New York Post in January 2013, police in Laval, Quebec say they believe the Akl brothers were involved in drug trafficking. Ziad Akl, 38 at the time, was believed by authorities to be on the run in the US after he was declared a wanted man by police in Quebec. Akl has gained attention as an actor and landed feature roles in at least two studio-produced Hollywood films, one of which was Martin Scorsese’s taut psychological thriller “Shutter Island,” where Akl played an inmate dubbed “The Tattooed Man.”
On June 11, 2014, the Canadian news CBC.ca reported that according to the Boston Globe, Ziad Akl was arrested June 4 of that year and waived his right to contest extradition.
As to Elias, the CBC reports a quote by Laval police Constable Nathalie Lorrian, “the last trace we have of him, he was in Costa Rica. We don’t have extradition with that country so it’s not possible for us to pick him up there.”
As we learned yesterday, Elias was in fact in Costa Rica and so was his brother, Ziad, who had somehow managed to escape custody and was detained Monday afternoon at the Juan Santamaria (San Jose) international aiport while trying to leave the country.
Security Minister Gustavo Mata confirms the detention on his Twitter account.
Detenido hermano de sujeto Elías, libanés que falleció esta mañana. Ligado en Canadá con delitos contra la propiedad y tráfico de armas. pic.twitter.com/34OoV0zthl
— Gustavo Mata Vega (@gustavomatacr) May 15, 2017
Photos released by the OIJ Monday night of the images captured by the school’s security camera, in the hope of identifying the shooters.