(UPDATED) MANILA, Philippines - Four men suspected of indiscriminately firing a gun that resulted in the death of a 7-year-old girl in Caloocan City were invited for questioning by police officers Thursday, January 3.
This was disclosed by Caloocan Councilor Ricojudge (RJ) Echiverri to reporters. One of those arrested was identified as Juan Agos, 52, a former Army reservist. The 3 others were identified as Feliciano Cercano, 43; Eddie Magtuba, 42; and Arcadio Gulmatico Jr, 40.
Caloocan police chief Senior Supt Rimas Calixto said Agos will be charged with illegal discharge of a firearm. Ballistics examination showed that the bullet slug recovered from the victim did not match that of the firearm allegedly fired by Agos.
Stephanie Nicole Ella was hit by a stray bullet while watching the fireworks display in Caloocan City during the New Year revelry. She died Wednesday at 2:26 pm, at the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City.
Caloocan Mayor Enrico Echiverri earlier told Rappler he received information that one of the aides of Caloocan Rep Oscar Malapitan fired a gun in Bgy Bagong Barrio.
In a phone interview, Malapitan said he does not know Agos. Neither did he know of any involvement by his aides in the incident.
At around 7 pm Thursday, ABS-CBN's Atom Araullo reported on Twitter that Agos, a former military man, had been arrested by the police. Agos admitted firing a gun on New Year's eve but at 11:30 pm, earlier than the shooting which killed Ella. Magtuba, Gulmatico and Agos were said to have fired downwards and not upwards.
Echiverri was later seen on GMA-7's 24 Oras accompanying Agos.
Mayor Echiverri had put out a reward for information leading to the arrest of the person who indiscriminately fired the shot that killed Ella. He offered P200,000.
In a phone interview, Echiverri said that after he announced the reward, he got a lot of phone calls and text messages, giving information on who fired the shot and where.
Echiverri said, "I got at least 3 text messages saying it was the military aide of Congressman Malapitan who fired the shot. I didn't call or text back those who gave tips. I passed on all the information to the city police. They are the ones who have technical know-how to handle the investigation."
He had ordered the police to search the area on Wednesday, January 2. "They searched 80 houses in barangays 180 and 183 (both adjacent to the barangay where Ella lived). They found firearms in some and they checked kung may mga lisensya (if they were licensed)," Echiverri said.
Caloocan residents have approached the police and turned over slugs for analysis. The crime laboratory is determining if the slugs match that which was extracted from Ella.
Malapitan will be running for mayor in May against RJ Echiverri, son of the incumbent mayor, under the United Nationalist Alliance. He will be up against 12 other candidates that include Echiverri and Macario "Boy" Asistio.
RJ is running under the Liberal Party.
The mayor however denied politicking. "I'm not making accusations. I'm not out to drag the congressman's name into this. I'm just saying these are the raw information that we got and it will be up to our authorities to confirm them and act on them."
Fired close by
Meanwhile, police investigators also said on Thursday that the bullet was fired within 50 meters of where Ella was.
Chief Inspector Joseph Palmero of the Philippine National Police's medico-legal division said Ella died from brain hemorrhage. The bullet entered the left side of her brain and stayed lodged on the left side of her face close to her nose.
The bullet fired from a caliber 45 pistol proved to be fatal.
Palmero said that based on the autopsy report, the gunman was very close. The hole in Ella's skull indicated that the bullet's trajectory was about 90 degrees.
The PNP is still trying to confirm the owner of the firearm.
In a press conference, PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said he had directed all police commanders to map all firearms holders within a 50-100 meter radius to identify possible suspects.
“I assure the family that we will do our best in the investigation and in follow-up operations to ensure justice. I will personally monitor the developments in this case," Purisima said. - Rappler.com