A former senior police official who escaped from prison and then seized the National Police headquarters was captured Wednesday by American troops after he fled the building.
The former police official, Col. Eduardo Herrera Hassan, walked out of the building ringed by a group of policemen loyal to him and an estimated 80 journalists who were trying to ask him questions. The cluster crossed a roadblock manned by American troops, and Herrera, who was wearing civilian clothes, got away in the confusion.Herrera escaped in a car but was captured a short time later at a condominium building near the police heaquarters.
Several shots were fired, and one of Herrera's supporters was wounded. About 50 armed men with Herrera also gave up after trying to flee.
Herrera escaped Tuesday afternoon from prison on the Pacific island of Nao aboard a private helicopter. He took over the police headquarters near the Panama Canal early Wednesday.
U.S. troops and Panamanian police then took up positions 300 yards away from the building. But both sides held their fire.
Before fleeing, Herrera met with U.S. and Panamanian officials, but it was not immediately known what they discussed.
The U.S. Embassy had issued a statement that said: "In answer to a request from the government of Panama, the United States has provided military support to the National Police to help in the protection of the area around the National Police headquarters."
The United States maintains about 12,000 troops in Panama to protect the canal until Panama takes it over at the end of the century.
The standoff was the first challenge to the nearly year-old government of President Guillermo Endara. Herrera said he was not trying to overthrow the government but gain more respect for the police.
The National Police force was created after U.S. forces invaded last December and toppled Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, who is jailed in Miami awaiting trial on drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges.
Herrera, a former Noriega associate, was fired as deputy National Police chief in August and jailed in October on charges of conspiring against the new government.
Before fleeing the headquarters, Herrera claimed to have control of Panama's police force, but it was not known how much support he had among the police.