At the height of his empire’s power in 1989, Pablo Escobar (1949-1993) was estimated to be the seventh-richest man in the world with a personal wealth of close to $4 billion, while his Medellín cartel controlled 80 percent of the global cocaine market. A hero to many in Medellín province (especially the poor), he was a charismatic man who worked hard to cultivate his “Robin Hood” image. He built football fields, multi-sports courts, houses and churches for the locals. The locals provided him with necessary eyes and ears to elude CIA and international efforts to arrest him.
By law was fast catching up with him. He was hunted by both US Delta Force operators, Colombian military and police, as well as the quasi-vigilante group known as “Los Pepes” (People Exploited by Pablo Escobar — a loose collection of rivals, hitmen, military and police, and others looking to avenge their lost ones)
On December 2, 1993, the Search Bloc triangulated him using the radio signals. How Escobar was killed during the confrontation was unclear, but he was cornered on the rooftop and, after a prolonged gunfight, suffered gunshots to the leg, torso, and the fatal one by his ear. It has never been proven who actually fired the final shot or whether it was made during the gunfight or as part of possible execution or suicide.
Above photo: Members of Colonel Martinez’s Search Bloc celebrate over Pablo Escobar’s body on December 2, 1993, in a photograph taken by DEA agent Steve Murphy. Pablo’s death ended a fifteen-month effort that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It was the deathblow to the Medellín cartel — it became fragmented and the cocaine market soon became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel, until the mid-1990s when its leaders, too, were either killed or captured by the government.
Link to Mark Bowden’s excellent Killing Pablo here, featuring the above photo on its cover