The tense eight-hour stand-off that saw the coastal town of Lagos plunged into a hostage drama involving a man armed with a sawn-off shotgun and an arsenal of weapons on Monday ended in the best way possible.
“Thankfully, we are not mourning the death of a policeman,” PSP commander António Viola Silva told a press conference an hour after his men had taken 40-year-old father-of-two António Duarte into custody.
But it could so easily have been very different. The shot that Duarte had fired as police approached him shortly after he barricaded himself into the Lagos offices of the CPCJ – the commission for the protection of children and minors – only nicked a police officer in the head “by chance”, said Viola Silva.
The ensuing eight hours of negotiations – combined with a long press interview that was aired on live TV – saw Portugal’s new-style of policing in action.
Constant updates were published on the PSP Facebook page, followed by hundreds of people – and when the drama had finally come to a close, agents were applauded as their vans and vehicles pulled out of the uptown area that had been cordoned off since shortly after 9.15am in the morning.
As for Duarte, he will now face a gamut of charges – almost certainly including one of attempted murder.
Said Viola Silva, it was “just luck” that there were no victims.
Intriguingly, one of the three hostages released unharmed was an off-duty GNR agent, in civilian clothes. It is unlikely that Duarte even knew this. The other hostages were a teacher and psychologist who worked at the CPCJ. All involved were given psychological counselling at the scene.
Viola Silva itemised the weapons carried by Duarte: a sawn-off shotgun, a 7.65 mm pistol, 29 cartridges, 24 bullets and a field knife.
Duarte’s reason for taking hostages and barricading himself into the ground floor building was that he wanted to speak to his two teenage children, from whom he claimed to have been separated by the authorities.
During a 20-minute interview with CMTV, he insisted that once he had spoken with his children, he would give himself up.
Police organised the conversation, and “true to his word”, wrote Correio da Manhã, Duarte then released his hostages and allowed himself to be arrested.
As CMTV explained throughout its reports, Duarte was already known to police for domestic violence.
This morning, Correio da Manhã confirms that the children and Duarte’s estranged wife are in a safe house “protected by APAV”, the national victims support association.
By NATASHA DONN [email protected]
Photo by: LUIS FORRA/LUSA