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PNP urges public: Don't draw conclusions on police killing of special needs teen

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PNP urges public: Don't draw conclusions on police killing of special needs teen
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STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police on Friday advised the public not to draw conclusions on the case of an 18-year-old with special needs who was shot dead during a police anti-illegal gambling operation in Valenzuela City and instead wait for the findings of the probes being conducted on the incident. 

Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, PNP chief, said this after Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian on Thursday revealed that a key witness refuted police's claim that a scuffle ensued in the raid that led to the killing of Edwin Arnigo. 

A statement from the PNP said Eleazar met with the same witness on Tuesday night through a meeting faciliated by journalists. PNP also said the witness wanted to personally meet Eleazar to disclose what he saw. 

“We decided to turn him over to the [National Bureau of Investigation] to avoid any doubt in our ongoing investigation," Eleazar said in Filipino. "The witness agreed and I personally called NBI Director Eric Distor about it." 

The NBI was tapped to conduct a separate probe into the incident, following the request of the victim’s family. The PNP has vowed to cooperate with the bureau and is also conducting its own investigation throught the Internal Affairs Service. 

Initial police accounts said a scuffle ensued after Arnigo, diagnosed with intellectual disability as a comorbidity to his autism spectrum disorder, tried to take a policeman's service weapon.  

It is unclear how the encounter started from the police perspective but the 18-year-old was shot in the process. Arnigo's family asserts that the teenager could not have lunged for the gun, as he had autism and was afraid of police officers. 

The witness, who according to Gatchalian was also apprehended by the same police suspect in the case and later came forward to the NBI, "said there was no scuffle between the victim and the policeman. No agawan ng baril (No struggle for the gun)." 

The mayor also said the witness was "in close proximity literally less than an arms length away from the victim when it happened." 

Gatchalian also said the witness belied police's claim that the shooting happened on the “tupada” or illegal cockfighting game site but a few meters away.

However, the city mayor also said the key witness "knows it was accidental because he saw the reaction of the officer after the shooting." 

Eleazar commended the witness for coming forward but made clear that he did not want to preempt investigations which are still ongoing. 

"As I said, let's allow investigations into the case to proceed, especially by the NBI because they know the full story of the witness," he said in Filipino. 

“We will accept and abide by any findings of the NBI and of the IAS in the case," he added. "In the meantime it would be prudent to wait for the outcome of the investigations being conducted." 

One officer involved in the case has been placed under restrictive custody while three others were relieved and transferred to district headquarters.

— Bella Perez-Rubio with reports from Franco Luna and Kristine Joy Patag 

GUILLERMO ELEAZAR PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PNP VALENZUELA CITY
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