The nickname El Escayolista (The Plasterer) kept cropping up in the police files of the 1980s in the Galician city of Vigo. His rap sheet included several violent robberies and petty drug dealing.
In fact, law enforcement workers had to go back to these old paper records to find the name of Enrique Lago Fariñas, the 50-year-old bank robber who died in a shootout with police last Friday. One officer died on the spot and another one remains in critical condition after sustaining extensive lung damage.
El Escayolista displayed the classic techniques of three decades ago, when branches handled large amounts of money
Since July 1994, when he walked out of prison, authorities had not heard from him again. The prison director back then, Jesús López, remembers him as “a grey, solitary type who did not join any groups and hardly ever talked to anyone.”
When he suddenly reappeared last Friday at an Abanca bank branch in the Vigo neighborhood of O Calvario, El Escayolista displayed the classic techniques of three decades ago, when electronic transactions were just getting started and branches handled large amounts of money.
Still, Lago Fariñas did manage to walk out with €120,000 in cash, according to investigation sources. The same sources said that the robber was a ruined entrepreneur with a terminal disease who felt he had nothing to lose, which made him particularly dangerous.
No bulletproof vests
The Interior Ministry said it would investigate “all the facts” in connection with the shootout. Asked why the officers who were dispatched to the scene were not wearing bulletproof vests, State Secretary for Security Francisco Martínez replied that “all the facts are going to be investigated” and that “all measures that need to be taken will be taken.”
Police sources at the Vigo precinct said that the city’s Prevention and Response Unit (which the dead and injured officers belonged to) had not yet received the bulletproof vests that the Interior Ministry has been handing out since 2013 as part of a plan to allocate 21,126 units by 2015. The National Police has a force of 70,000 officers.
The old-fashioned robbery began with El Escayolista walking up to the teller and stating: “I am ready to kill. If you behave, nothing will happen to you.” Then he produced a bag from under his jacket and waited for the safety box to be opened. As he was about to walk out, he looked out the window and glimpsed a police officer outside. That was when he decided to take the deputy director with him as a hostage.
When he stepped outside, 36-year-old officer Vanessa Lage tried to talk him down. “Calm down, it’s OK,” she told him in an attempt to open a negotiation.
But the robber shot his gun in the air once, then opened fire on Lage and Deputy Police Inspector Vicente José Allo, neither of whom were wearing bulletproof vests.
Witnesses report hearing more than 30 shots in the course of the next two minutes. At the end of it, El Escayolista and Lage lay dead, Allo was seriously injured, and the deputy bank director had been shot in the arm.
Police sources said the robber’s reaction was suicidal and that he never had the slightest intention of negotiating.
“He wasn’t carrying a weapon just to intimidate people. Either things turned out right or he just didn’t care about anything anymore,” said Agustín Vigo, spokesman for the Federal Union of the Police.