- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2007

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — An American tourist who watched as a U.S. military veteran in his 70s used his bare hands to kill an armed assailant in Costa Rica said she thought the attempted robbery was a joke — until the masked attacker held a gun to her head.

“I thought it was a skit. But then he pointed the gun at my head and grabbed me by the throat and I thought I was going to die,” Clova Adams, 54, said by telephone yesterday from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship.

The assault occurred during a ship stopover Wednesday in Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital.

The woman was with 12 American tourists who hired a driver to explore Costa Rica for a few hours. They were climbing out of the van to visit a Caribbean beach when three men wearing ski masks ran toward them, she said. One held a gun to her head, while the other two pulled out knives.

Suddenly, one of the tourists, a U.S. military veteran trained in self defense, jumped out of the van and put the gunman in a headlock, said Limon police chief Luis Hernandez.

He added, the American, whom he refused to identify, struggled with the robber, breaking his collarbone and eventually killing him. Police identified the dead man as Warner Segura, 20. The other two assailants fled.

Afterward, the tourists drove Mr. Segura to a hospital, where he was declared dead. Sergio Lopez, a Red Cross auxiliary, examined Segura’s body and said he died from asphyxiation.

Mr. Lopez also treated the woman for a panic attack.

“She was very nervous after the assault, but she had not been physically hurt,” Mr. Lopez said.

The U.S. Embassy confirmed the account, but refused to release the name of the American who defended the group, citing his right to privacy.

Costa Rican officials interviewed the Americans, and said they wouldn’t charge the U.S. tourist with any crime because he acted in self defense.

“They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up,” Chief Hernandez said. He said Mr. Segura had previous charges against him for assaults.

The cruise ship delayed its departure until the group boarded the ship, the Carnival Liberty, which was set to return Sunday to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Costa Rica has struggled with growing violence and crime in recent years. University of Kansas student Shannon Martin, 23, was fatally stabbed in 2001 after she left a nightclub in Golfito, 105 miles south of San Jose.

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed in a statement that one of the ship’s guests had killed the Costa Rican assailant but refused to name those involved.

“All of the guests involved, who had booked the cruise together as a group, have opted to continue with their vacation plans. Carnival is providing full support and assistance to the guests,” the statement said.

Associated Press writer Ioan Grillo contributed to this report from Mexico. City.

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