Expert: Kian kneeling when shot by cops

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Expert: Kian kneeling when shot by cops

Saldy delos Santos comforts his wife, Lorenza, during a hearing on the killing of their son, Kian, at the Senate yesterday. ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO

MANILA, Philippines - Teenage student Kian Loyd delos Santos was slumped or kneeling on the ground when three bullets were fired into his body – two to the head and one in the back, forensic experts testified before the Senate yesterday.

In separate testimonies before the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, Dr. Erwin Erfe, head of the forensics department of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), and Dr. Jocelyn Cruz of the Northern Police District (NPD) said two bullets entered the 17-year-old victim’s head, one behind the left ear and one through the ear itself.

Both experts said the bullets that entered the head had an “upward trajectory,” indicating Delos Santos was prone when shot by an assailant standing on the left side of the Grade 11 student.

Cruz and Erfe conducted separate autopsies on Delos Santos, whom police said engaged the lawmen in a firefight during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan City on Aug. 16.

The three police officers – PO3 Arnel Oares, PO1 Jerwin Cruz and PO1 Jeremiah Pereda – accused of killing Delos Santos claimed the victim fired at them, triggering a shootout.

However, a security video showed two of the three officers dragging an individual to an alley where Delos Santos was later found.

“The position of the victim, he was kneeling face down when he was shot,” Cruz told the panel chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Erfe, whose services were sought by the victim’s parents, however, said there was a third shooter who shot the victim in the back.

“He (assailant) was at the near contact distance, malapit na malapit (very close). The shooters were standing,” Erfe said.

Erfe said he conducted the autopsy after Delos Santos’ body was already embalmed by a funeral parlor in Malabon City.

It was not clear why the NPD autopsy missed the third bullet wound found by Erfe on the victim’s back.

Lacson noted that both the PAO and NPD autopsies found two exit wounds in the head but there was no exit cavity for the third entry at the back.

He said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) found only two slugs, apparently from the head shots.

“So where’s the third slug? Have you found it?” Lacson asked the two forensic experts. There were no clear answers as other senators cut in to ask their questions.

Cruz’s autopsy determined the head shots were done at a distance of 60 centimeters, or two feet or more. She noted that there was no “tattooing,” or the marks left by unburned gunpowder, on the entry wounds when the gun is fired at close range.

Senators asked Cruz to provide photographs of the autopsy, but she said police did not have them.

Erfe said it was possible not to have tattooing even if shots are fired at close range.

The reasons for the differing autopsies were not resolved during the hearing.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV also asked the whereabouts of Delos Santos’ clothes on the night he was killed but no one present in the hearing could answer.

Chief Insp. Amor Cerillo, who was relieved as head of the Caloocan Police Community Precinct 7 where the three policemen are assigned, said initial ballistics report indicated that the 9 mm slugs recovered from the crime scene came from Oares’ pistol.

Shoot first, ask later

When asked by Aquino to comment on the autopsies, particularly that Delos Santos was shot while prone, PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said in Filipino: “If you shoot someone in the back, who is kneeling, you’re not a law enforcer, you’re a criminal, a murderer.”

In yesterday’s hearing, the police officials seemed to justify the killing of Delos Santos, learning that the victim was into illegal drugs only after he was killed.

Chief Supt. Roberto Fajardo, the NPD director who was relieved of his duty, told the hearing there was no specific target of the Aug. 16 operation in Caloocan City, but police could confirm Delos Santos was involved in drugs.

Asked if those drug links were known after the killing, Fajardo said: “Yes. We have to check the background. We checked after.”

He said a drug suspect arrested the following day confirmed Delos Santos was dealing drugs.

Senior Supt. Chito Bersaluna, the former Caloocan police chief, said Delos Santos could be tied to the drugs trade by a recovered cellphone and “based on what came out on social media” after his killing.

Those admissions will add to the growing scrutiny on police behind a crackdown that President Duterte on Wednesday said would not stop. He said there was no justification for the killing of Delos Santos, and police responsible would face justice.

The three police accused of involvement in the killing said little during the inquiry. One refused to speak, while the other two maintained the individual on the security video was their “asset,” not Delos Santos.

Witnesses said otherwise. They claimed seeing Delos Santos being dragged into a corner before he was found dead in a ditch near his home. A .45 caliber pistol was reportedly found in his left hand.

The same witnesses had been taken into custody by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said it was only “temporary.”

She said the families of the witnesses sought her for their protection.

PAO chief Persida Acosta echoed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s call to Hontiveros to surrender the witnesses for custody under the government’s witness protection program.

The Senate, however, has provided protective custody to the three witnesses.

Hontiveros said the executive session to hear the testimony of the three witnesses did not push through because Lacson wanted to secure a written authorization letter from the mother of one of the witnesses first before speaking with them.

Two witnesses are minors and are related, so the authorization from the mother of one of them would cover for both.

The sister of the two minors initially signed the consent form to allow Hontiveros, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and Caloocan Bishop Pablo David to have them in custody.

She also went to the Senate yesterday to give her consent to the chamber to provide them with protective custody. – Marvin Sy, Edu Punay

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