Ivan Simonovis is one of President Donald Trump’s guests at the State of the Union tonight. Here is what you need to know about Simonovis.
1. Ivan Simonovis Was Known as a “SWAT Cop’ in Venezuela
Simonovis was the Chief of Police in Caracas, Venezuela. According to his bio from the White House, he was considered one of the nation’s top police officers. Others refer to him as Venezuela’s most famous SWAT cop. He had stopped a seven-hour hostage standoff that was televised live with a sniper shot, a move that made him famous, ABC News reported.
2. He Was Imprisoned in 2004 & Said the Charges Were False
In 2004, Simonovis was imprisoned for protecting protesters, his bio with the White House explains. He said that he was falsely charged with ordering police to fire on pro-government demonstrators, NBC News reported.
For much of that time, he was kept in a 6-foot-by-6-foot cell and his arrest was signed by Judge Maike Moreno, ABC News reported.
3. He Escaped After 15 Years, But Other Officers Were Still Jailed for 30-Year Prison Sentences
He was in prison for nearly 15 years after being given a 30-year sentence, NBC News reported. Five other officers are still in jail. He escaped after trying a hunger strike and seeking a pardon to end his imprisonment early.
4. He Escaped By Rappelling Down a 75-Foot Wall
In 2019, Simonovis escaped Venezuela and made his way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. NBC News reported that he escaped house arrest by rappelling down a 75-foot wall late at night, and then cutting his ankle monitor with a bolt cutter. He escaped onto a motor boat, but the engine wouldn’t start because it was clogged. He was still able to escape, but will not give more details so that he does not implicate anyone involved.
Simonovis had been put on house arrest after suffering from 19 chronic illnesses that were made worse by his imprisonment, NBC reported. He tried his last escape after being warned he might be put back in prison again.
5. His Wife Tweeted Thanks to Trump for the SOTU Invite: ‘It Always Seems Impossible Until It’s Done’
Simonovis is married to Bony Pertnez, NBC News reported. When he escaped, she was in Germany visiting their children and had no idea about his plans. Here’s a photo of Simonovis with his family.
While she was in Germany, there were rumors that he was there with her, ABC News reported. So she posted family photos and videos to make people think he was there and make it tougher for him to be found while he was escaping.
Today, she tweeted thanks about attending the State of the Union tonight. The translation of her tweet reads: “On behalf of #Venezuela and that of my family, we are grateful for the support and invitation to the State of the President’s State address @realDonaldTrump. It definitely always seems impossible until it’s done. #LiberenALosPresosPoliticos”
Simonovis now helps U.S. officials investigate terrorist links or drug trafficking allegations in Venezuela. Simonovis also hopes that his story will inspire others in Venezuela, ABC News noted.