Hit Man Who Killed 300 Freed

Jhon Jairo Velasquez was Escobar's chief assassin
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 27, 2014 1:13 AM CDT
Hit Man Who Killed 300 Freed
Jhon Jairo Velasquez, a former hit man for Pablo Escobar, gives testimony in 2006 while holding a book titled "The True Pablo: Blood, Treason, and Death."   (AP Photo/ William Fernando Martinez, File)

The Colombian hit man known as "Popeye" has been freed from prison after 22 years—which works out to around 27 days for each of the 300 people he has admitted killing. John Jairo Velasquez was the chief assassin for drug lord Pablo Escobar and is believed to have had a role in thousands of killings on top of the ones for which he was imprisoned. He was freed early from his 30-year sentence after giving evidence against other criminals, and Colombia is divided on whether he deserves a second chance in society, the BBC reports.

The 52-year-old—who murdered his own girlfriend on Escobar's orders—is believed to have been involved in the 1989 killing of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, the kidnapping of future President Andres Pastrana, and the bombing of an Avianca flight, which killed all 107 people on board, Reuters reports. He left prison in Bogota under heavy police guard yesterday and will be on probation for the next four years. But although his testimony against others means he is now a target for hit men himself, it's not clear whether he will be receiving ongoing protection. (Another legacy from Escobar's time as cartel boss: a herd of hippos breeding out of control.)

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