MANILA, Philippines - Four men who fired guns during the New Year celebration in Caloocan will still undergo further investigation for the stray bullet death of 7-year-old Stephanie Nicole Ella, the spokesman of the Caloocan City police said Friday.
Speaking to ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda, Supt. Jack Candelario backtracked on earlier statements that ex-military man Juan Agos and 3 others have been cleared in the stray bullet killing.
He said Agos, et al had earlier been cleared only because the guns that he had registered could not have been used to kill Stephanie.
"The specimen that we got from the victim did not match the slugs that we got from Agos. His firearms are registered. We have a record of his slugs or standard," he said in a Punto por Punto interview.
"Yes, their group admitted shooting their guns but they said they shot pointing downwards. We are still checking the 12 slugs we got and cross-match it," he added.
Candelario said police will ask a local court for a warrant to search Agos' house if he has other firearms.
"Hindi po natin isinasawalang-bahala na sila po ay wala na pong kinalaman," he said. He urged witnesses to come forward and give more information about the case.
He also said Agos and his companions will face charges of illegal discharge of firearm.
Stephanie Nicole slipped into a coma after she was hit in the head with a stray bullet while watching fireworks outside her home in Caloocan.
She died on Wednesday at the East Avenue Medical Center after suffering 8 cardiac arrests.
Her death triggered outrage and condemnation of poor law enforcement that allows hundreds of thousands of unregistered firearms to be on the streets.
There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, according to data from the police firearms and explosives office.
It said there were another roughly 600,000 unlicensed firearms in circulation across the Philippines.
A different gun?
For his part, Stephanie's father, Jay, urged police to examine all angles in the case. He said he is willing to accept the ballistic examination that Agos' guns did not match the slug that killed Stephanie.
"Tignan din nila ang ibang baril kasi normally naman pag ganyang baril na licensed, hindi yan ginagamit basta-basta. Normally, yung hindi lisensiyadong baril ang ginagamit sa kalokohan," he said.
He also urged Agos to undergo a paraffin test following reports that he had refused to take the test.
He said he also welcomes Agos' move to surrender to police.
"Sa akin, OK na rin na sumuko sila dahil kahit hindi naman sila ang nakapatay kay Nicole, Mali pa rin ang nagawa nila e. Yun din naman ang point namin ng panawagan namin na isumbong yung mga nagpapaputok ng baril," he said.
"Hindi lang naman yung pagkamatay ni Nicole pero yung magkaroon na sila ng takot sa susunod na magpapaputok pa ulit. Kahit makapatay sila o hindi, mali pa ring magpaputok ng baril sa anumang okasyon o walang okasyon," he added. With Agence France-Presse