Nicole’s ma appeals for speedy probe

Pete Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The mother of Stephanie Nicole Ella, the seven-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve in Caloocan City, yesterday reiterated her appeal for a speedy investigation so the culprit would be identified before the child’s burial this weekend.

Ellaine Glenn told The STAR that they understood the efforts being done by the investigators in trying to identify the person who fired the gun and they are hopeful that there would be a positive outcome before Saturday.

Task Group Nicole, created Friday to hasten the probe of the girl’s death, held a case conference at 3 p.m. yesterday at the Barugo police station in Caloocan City to consolidate and assess the level of their investigation.

City police chief Senior Superintendent Rimas Calixto said they have already turned over 22 assorted slugs to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Lab for cross-matching, most of which were surrendered by concerned citizens.

Caloocan police spokesperson Superintendent Jackie Candelario said that from an initial four found near the victim’s body on Day One, the number of slugs has totaled 22, including the four dug up by investigators Friday at the place where suspects Juan Agus, who allegedly owned the Spanish-made Llama .45 pistol, and his three drinking companions allegedly fired the gun.

He said they are still calling on persons in the Malaria neighborhood where the Ellas live, particularly those who actually saw persons firing their guns indiscriminately during the revelry, to help them in the investigation.

Candelario said that Agus and his companions are not yet off the hook and police are considering the possibility that he may not have surrendered all his guns.

He said he is also exploring the possibility that Agus could have “changed barrels” and surrendered a “clean gun.”

“At this time, everybody (Agus and his friends and the 32 caliber .45 registered gun owners in the Malaria district) remains to be a suspect,” he added.

Nicole, a grade one pupil at the Tala Elementary School, will be buried on Jan. 12 at the Santuario de Paz in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

According to her mother, Nicole’s remains will be brought to their school on Friday for last viewing by her classmates and schoolmates before transfer to the Lord’s Flock Sanctuary Church in Tala at night.

From the church at around 11 a.m., Nicole will be buried in Bulacan.

Nicole was with family and friends outside their house along San Lorenzo Ruiz street in Barangay 185 watching fireworks during New Year’s Eve when a stray bullet from a .45 caliber pistol hit her in the head. She died at the East Avenue Medical Center two days later.

Pasig victim now out of danger

Meanwhile, the 37-year-old eatery owner who was hit by a stray bullet in the head at the height of the New Year revelry in Pasig City is now out of danger, but police have yet to identify and arrest the person who fired the gun.

Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, director of the Eastern Police District (EPD), said they will move forward with the investigation after the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) releases its findings on the slug recovered from Francis Flores.

Despite the absence of the SOCO report, Laurel said he had forwarded to the Firearms and Explosive Division (FED) in Camp Crame a request to furnish them a list of all licensed gun holders in Barangay Pinagbuhatan where the incident took place.

Flores was watching fireworks while visiting relatives when hit by a stray bullet. He was rushed to the Pasig City General hospital and later transferred to the Cardinal Santos Medical Center, where he spent days in intensive care.

“The slug is so small and could be from a .22 caliber handgun, according to our visual checking. But we are awaiting the final result of the SOCO examination before we could move on to the next phase of our investigation,” Senior Superintendent Mario Rariza, Pasig City police chief, said.

In a related story, the police are conducting investigation at the Korean embassy in Taguig that was also hit by stray bullet during New Year’s Eve.

No one was hurt in the incident.

Police said the bullet entered through a window in the building’s second floor and hit a wall. An empty slug of a .45 caliber pistol was found in the area. – Non Alquitran, Jerry Botial, Aie Balagtas See












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