Cops kill bus hostage-taker

Aie Balagtas See - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A bus robbery along Taft Avenue in Manila turned into a bloody hostage-taking yesterday afternoon after police officers killed the suspect and rescued his 16-year-old victim.

“Kung mapapatay ako, isasama kita (If I am killed, I will take you with me),” were the suspect’s last words to his victim, a graphic arts student from the Technological University of the Philippines, as he held her in the HM Transport bus at around 2:30 p.m.

Three gunshots rang out and the suspect fell to the floor. The girl was taken out of the bus by Inspector Boy Miñas, who acted as the first negotiator, of the Pedro Gil precinct.

The barefoot suspect, who has yet to be identified, boarded the bus at Rizal Park at about 2 p.m. Minutes later, the student boarded the bus as it passed Finance Road.

Bus dispatcher Danilo Aniben said the suspect sat in the back of the bus before transferring from one seat to another, “as if looking for a victim.”

The passengers let the suspect be as Mario Culebar, 44, drove the bus bound for Alabang. As they approached Pedro Gil street, the suspect grabbed the student and declared a holdup.

The passengers got out of the bus by jumping from the vehicle’s rear left window.

Culebar got out and sought police help. Miñas said he received a radio alert from police hotline 117.

“When we got there, there were only two of them,” Miñas told The STAR in an interview at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Miñas said the radio report was robbery but when they arrived, the suspect had taken the student hostage.

“It was dark in the bus as he had pulled the curtains closed. What I could see from the door was that he was holding the student and he had a bladed weapon,” he said.

A television report stated that the suspect’s weapon was fashioned from the metal part of an ice pick jammed into a ballpen casing.

The suspect asked for something to drink and was given two bottles of water. He asked Miñas to call his mother who allegedly lived in Sta. Mesa, but did not give his mother’s contact details.

The suspect kept cursing at the policemen and, in the middle of the negotiation, threatened to kill his hostage. The girl started to struggle.

Inspector Dionell Brannon, chief of Lawton precinct, walked toward the window on the driver’s side to have a better view of the suspect.

When Brannon saw the suspect move to stab the girl’s neck, he shot the suspect three times.

The suspect died at around 2:55 p.m. while being treated at the PGH.  The student, who was unhurt, was taken to the Pedro Gil LRT station for an initial medical exam. “She looked scared but had very alert eyes,” Police Officer 1 Jennifer dela Cruz told The STAR.

The student became more afraid when reporters swarmed in front of her, demanding interviews, police said.

The student’s mother said she had gone to school to submit a project and was headed home when the incident occurred.

As police officers took her to PGH in a car, Dela Cruz said the girl asked her, “Where is the hostage-taker? He might come back for me.”

Dela Cruz said she assured the girl, “He can no longer hurt you.”


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