The Year In Review Spotlight On June

FILE - In this July 13, 2017 file photo, Oscar Perez speaks to the press at a night vigil to honor the more than 90 people killed during three months of anti-government protests, in Caracas, Venezuela. Venezuelan officials say on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 they’ve exchanged fire during an attempt to capture the fugitive police officer who led a high-profile attack in Caracas last year from a stolen helicopter. (Miguel Rodriguez, File/Associated Press)

>CARACAS, Venezuela — Officials in Venezuela confirmed Tuesday that a rebellious police officer who led a brazen helicopter attack in Caracas last year was among those killed in a violent shootout with security forces.

Oscar Perez was among the seven who died fighting against police and soldiers Monday in a small mountain community outside of Caracas, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said.

Two police officers were killed and eight others gravely injured, he said.

“The terrorist acts committed by this terrorist cell showed the destabilizing objectives that they were pursuing,” Reverol said.

Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups called for a transparent investigation into the deaths after video images showed Perez shouting over gunfire that they wished to surrender.

“We’re going to turn ourselves in!” Perez said in the video.

A former police officer, action-movie star and pilot, Perez leaped into the spotlight in June, when he stole a helicopter and used it to lob grenades and fire at two government buildings in Caracas. Nobody was killed in the attack.

Perez, 36, had been one of Venezuela’s most wanted fugitives ever since, periodically posting videos on Instagram calling upon Venezuelans to take to the streets against what he called President Nicolas Maduro’s tyrannical government.

Perez claimed that he was fighting for Venezuela’s freedom from a government that is starving its people. He garnered tens of thousands of followers online and has piqued the curiosity of Venezuelans who either hail him as hero, condemn him as a criminal or question if he might be a ruse to support Maduro’s assertion that the nation is under attack by opposition conspirators.

In December, Perez posted videos showing him and a small armed band taking over a military outpost and smashing a portrait of Maduro with his foot. Perez and the assailants berated several detained guardsmen for doing nothing to help their fellow citizens.

Perez surfaced online again early Monday in videos — blood dripping across his face — and holed up in a mountainside house. Perez shouted over a spray of gunfire that the group wished to surrender, but that the police outside were set on killing them.

“I want to ask Venezuela not to lose heart — fight, take to the streets,” he said. “It is time for us to be free, and only you have the power now.”

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