NBI set to probe into killing of 18-year-old special needs man shot in scuffle with cops

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
NBI set to probe into killing of 18-year-old special needs man shot in scuffle with cops
Luigi Hernando was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assailants shortly after he withdrew money from a bank on Friday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — With four Valuenzuela cops in restrictive custody, the National Bureau of Investigation has been asked to step in and investigate the killing of an 18-year-old special needs man diagnosed with autism after a scuffle with police.

This was confirmed in a press briefing with reporters Monday afternoon by Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, who added that the tapping of the NBI came upon the request of the victim's family who asked for an impartial investigation. 

"They don't believe that the police should do it, and rightfully so. How can you investigate your own?" Gatchalian said.

Erwin Arnigo was shot dead in a supposed scuffle with a police officer in the city, leading to the placement of four officers under restrictive custody, including: 

  1. Police MSgt. Christopher Salcedo 
  2. Police Cpl. Kenneth Pacheco 
  3. Police Cpl. Rodel Villar 
  4. Police Cpl. Rex Paredes

What happened?

Grieving family: According to the victim's immediate family, Edwin, who was diagnosed with autism, was scared of police and had a certain sensitivity around them.

After lunch, Gatchalian quoted them as saying that he wanted to buy ice candy at a store across the street from their house.

The family said that their son was at the homeowners' office when the cops, carrying out their operation, accidentally hit him while running, causing the scuffle.

However, the family also cited eyewitness who said that the police personnel bearhugged and eventually shot the 18-year-old.

Police narratives tell a completely different story. Citing the account of Valuenzuela police chief, Gatchalian said that the cops were part of a raiding team targeting an illegal cockfighting operation in the vicinity. 

It is not clear how the encounter started from the police perspective, but police said that a scuffle ensued after the boy tried to take the policeman's service weapon. 

He was shot in the process. 

Other eyewitnesses cited by the family also said the 18-year-old was accosted at the site of the tupada operation. 

"It's only proper that we get a third party like the NBI to verify the veracity of the case. I don't think it's time to talk about penalties and all that because we need to get to the bottom of things first," Gatchalian said. 

PNP opens investigation 

Police leadership told a different story, too. 

In a statement sent to reporters later Monday, Police Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said that Arnigo himself was one of the suspects of the illegal cockfighting operation, adding that the scuffle took place when officers were effecting arrest. 

"One of the three arrested suspects grabbed the service firearm of one of the policemen which resulted in a scuffle. The service firearm went off and hit one of the three suspects later identified as Edwin Cabantugan Arnigo," he said. 

He added that the operation yielded the arrest of three people and confiscation of several items that include fighting cocks and bet money amounting to P1,340.

Police took Arnigo to the Valenzuela Medical Center where he was declared dead on arrival.

"I have directed the Internal Affairs Service to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, specifically aimed at determining if there were lapses in the conduct of the operation. Part of my instruction is to finish the investigation at the soonest possible time," he said. 

"I would like to assure our kababayan of a quick and impartial conduct of investigation regarding this incident. Meanwhile, I ask all persons who witnessed the incident to help us shed light on what happened  so that we can quickly and impartially resolve this case."

Philstar.com sought the Valenzuela City police station for comment but has not received a response as of press time. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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