HERO’S STORY: Soldier fights off robbers with rusty rifle and 6 bulletsBy Frances Mangosing
MANILA, Philippines – For Master Sergeant Eleno Leopoldo, 26 years in the Philippine Army has taught him, more than anything else, to respond to the call of duty, under any circumstance.
This was put to the test one afternoon in May when on his way home from his ricefield in Cortes, Surigao del Sur, he heard people shouting, Leopoldo said in an interview with INQUIRER.net Friday.
Leopoldo, 50, said that as soon as he got home to get his rusty and loaded Armscor Squibman Caliber 22 rifle, he heard gunfire. Someone needs help, he said.
A resident of Burgos village for at least two decades, Leopoldo said crime was almost nil in this rural community.
That afternoon, however, Leopoldo said that a businessman-neighbor was robbed by four armed men some 300 meters away. To his surprise as he came closer to the area, the armed men were trying to take the motorcycle of his friend, Tomas Corales.
The robbers hit Corales with a pistol, and shot his son Vincent on both thighs, Leopoldo said.
Leopoldo said he ducked when the robbers saw him armed with a rifle.
He said the robbers retreated, firing at him who only had six bullets loaded in his gun.
The need to hit his target accurately became a pressing one, he said. Marking his sights on the center mass of one of the robbers, he said he fired his first shot from a distance of 50 meters, hitting his target in the abdomen and causing his death. The suspect, he found out later, turned out to be a cop.
As he dodged more bullets, Leopoldo said he lodged another bullet into his single-shot weapon and aimed for another robber as he ordered his neighbors to “hurl stones and fight these criminals”.
When the neighbors threw their stones, Leopoldo said he got the chance to get a good view of the suspects, aiming at the face of one and hitting him at the center of his nose on his second shot.
Some fifty meters away, Leopoldo said he kept firing at the two other robbers who fled aboard a motorcycle.
“I really wanted to get all of them for the crimes they committed in my locality. I chased them but stopped when I had only two remaining bullets,” he said.
The police arrived 10 minutes later, said Leopoldo.
“I was mistaken as one of the suspects because I was walking barefoot and looked dirty. Since I came from my rice paddies, nobody would immediately know that I am a soldier,” he recalled.
Leopoldo said that the police were able to retrieve two pistols from the robbers and a part of the stolen cash was returned to the owner.
“The marksmanship training that I learned in the Army was put to good use. But it is the first time that I have used my shooting skills against criminal gang members,” said Leopoldo, who served in Northern Mindanao.
Members of a shooting group, Long Range Rimfire Philippines, lauded Leopoldo for his deed done “beyond the call of duty”.
Randy Paronda, a champion rifle shooter, promptly recommended to his fellow shooters to reward the soldier-hero.
“I truly appreciate the heroic feat of this soldier. His shining example must be known to all soldiers,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel George Chua, Commanding Officer of Armscor Ready Reserve Battalion based in Marikina City, pledged the awarding of a brand new 9mm Armscor pistol for Leopoldo.
“We admire Msgt Leopoldo’s heroic actions in defending his community. Armed with a single-shot Armscor rifle, he was unfazed by the dangers posed by the rob gang members who were armed with semi-automatic weapons,” said Chua, who is also the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Armscor, a firearms manufacturer.
Other members of the shooting community donated money for Leopoldo’s travel allowance. An awarding ceremony will be held during the annual Defense and Sporting Arms Show in Manila on July 2012.
“I am not happy taking one’s life, but, I was forced do it in order to save the innocent people who needed my help. As a resident here, it is also my responsibility to defend my community against criminals,” said Leopoldo.
Leopoldo, who is in the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion, will retire in December 2012.