An Antioquian court sentenced former army Captain Guillermo Armando Gordillo Sanchez to 20 years in jail for his part in the 2005 San Jose de Apartado massacre, in which five adults and three children were brutally murdered.
The court found Gordillo guilty of “murder of protected persons,” “acts of barbarity,” and “intent to commit a crime.” The disgraced ex-captain was also ordered to pay a fine of almost $400,000 – nearly 1,500 times the Colombian minimum wage – and was banned from public office for 15 years.
Demobilized paramilitaries from the Heroes de Tolovo Bloc, who are accused of orchestrating the massacre in the small north-west Colombian town, identified Captain Gordillo and members of his 17th Brigade as having being involved. The army had initially blamed the FARC for the massacre.
Gordillo confessed to his involvement in the gruesome incident while under interrogation. Ten other officials and their subordinates’ cases are currently under investigation.
The disgraced captain testified that more than 100 Colombian soldiers were accompanying some 50 members of Heroes de Tolovo on a patrol when the massacre took place.
Gordillo said that the operation was planned in advance by paramilitary leader Diego “Don Berna” Fernando Murillo and a Colombian army general, a colonel and a major. The captain said that he and his subordinates were advised that paramilitaries disguised as farmers would enter the town first to drive out alleged FARC guerrillas, so that the army could then enter to seize the territory.
A report by NGO Colombia Support Network found “no credible evidence… of [San Jose de Apartado] community support for the FARC guerrillas.”
Gordillo’s conviction comes just before the five-year anniversary of the San Jose de Apartado massacre. The attack took place on February 21, 2005. Two families from the self-declared “peace community” were slaughtered, including a one-year-old and a five-year old who were both beheaded.