Latest Stories

242 gun owners living in Nicole neighborhood

By ,

Stephanie Nicole Ella (second from left), her 5-year-old brother Ken and her cousins eagerly await New Year’s Eve outside their home in Caloocan City unaware that she would be hit by a stray bullet at midnight. Note date on photo at right. PHOTO COURTESY OF ELLA FAMILY

As many as 242 gun owners live in the neighborhood of Stephanie Nicole Ella, the 7-year-old girl who was hit and killed by celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve, records of the Philippine National Police showed.

Of the number of licensed firearms owners in the Tala area, composed of four villages in Caloocan City, 45 are in possession of .45-caliber pistols, possibly including the one that killed Nicole, whose death has triggered public outrage and calls for tighter gun control.

According to the PNP’s Firearms and Explosives Office, there are 242 registered guns in Tala. Of this, 138 are registered under a security agency, which operates from the area, while 104 are owned by private individuals, including the 45 who own .45-caliber pistols.

Not yet off the hook

The hunt for the still unidentified reveler who fired the shot that killed Nicole continues, even as the ex-soldier who owned up to firing his gun that night but was apparently exonerated by a ballistics test, has yet to be fully absolved of responsibility, said Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, who heads the firearms and explosives office.

Nicole was watching a fireworks display outside the family home on New Year’s Eve when a .45-caliber bullet, apparently from celebratory gunfire, hit her in the head. She died at East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City on Wednesday afternoon.

Police later said the bullet that killed Nicole was fired from a gun just 50 meters from where she stood.

Juan Agus, a former intelligence officer of the Presidential Security Group who is now a barangay official, turned himself in on Thursday. He admitted to having fired his 1911 pistol during the New Year’s Eve celebrations, taking turns with three other friends.

But the Caloocan police later concluded that Agus’ 1911 pistol was not the gun from which the bullet that killed Nicole was fired.

Not so fast

However, Petrasanta and Malacañang said Agus was not yet home free.

“We will have to check because what if the pistol [that killed Nicole] is Llama-made and your gun is not Llama-made. But what if you only changed it? Or what if you also changed the firing pin? We will check carefully,” Petrasanta said.

Besides, the Caloocan police investigation has yet to be completed, he said.

The PNP official said that based on PNP records, Agus owns three pistols, the .45-caliber 1911 pistol, a .22-caliber and a 9 mm.

He stands to lose all his licenses and have his guns confiscated for violating regulations, Petrasanta said.

“The mere fact that he let other people borrow his gun and they fired it was already a violation of indiscriminate firing. That’s just one of the grounds to revoke his license,” he said.

In Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Agus and his three friends would be charged with indiscriminate firing, an act falling under the crime of illegal discharge of firearms.

“He himself admitted that he had a gun and he fired it at the time. While it is not the same gun that fired the bullet that led to the demise of Stephanie, that is still a crime in and of itself,” Valte told a Palace briefing.

Charges dismissed, P1,000 bail

But even as Petrasanta and Valte spoke, Agus and his three friends were getting a reprieve from the Caloocan prosecutor’s office.

Nida C. Gravino, senior assistant prosecutor, on Friday dismissed charges of illegal discharge of firearms and negligence against Agus and his drinking buddies, Arcadio Gulmatico, Eddie Magtubo and Feliciano Cercano.

The four men were detained on Thursday and were subjected to inquest proceedings on Friday, where Gravino dismissed the charge of illegal discharge of firearms for lack of evidence, approving charges of alarm and scandal only.

“There was no proof to the effect that when the gun was fired, it was aimed at a person. There was no witness who declared to the effect that these people fired the gun,” Gravino said in a telephone interview.

She also dismissed the charge of negligence against Agus for letting his drinking buddies take turns in firing his .45-caliber gun.

A P1,000 bail was recommended for the temporary liberty of the four suspects, who remained in the custody of Caloocan police as of press time on Friday.


Reckless imprudence

However, the four suspects will still face a preliminary investigation for the case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide in connection with the death of Nicole.

According to Gravino, the city prosecutor, Ferdinand Valbuena, ordered the conduct of a preliminary investigation to determine if there was probable cause to file charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against the four suspects.

The hearing will be conducted next week, and the police could submit additional evidence then, she said.

The Caloocan police said it had narrowed down the search for Nicole’s killer to the 45 known owners of .45-caliber guns in the Malaria district of northern Caloocan.

Supt. Jackie Candelario, assistant chief for operations and Caloocan police spokesperson, said the bullet that hit Nicole came from about 50 meters away, or about the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, or about half a football pitch.

“After our reenactment on Thursday night, we found out that the bullet was fired from just 50 meters away. And based on the way the bullet hit Nicole, we can say that it was fired from her back,” he said.

Candelario said they are looking into all .45-caliber gun owners in Malaria but there is also the possibility that the gunman was just visiting Nicole’s neighborhood that night.

“The next step for us is to compare the ballistic signatures of the gun owners in this area with that of the signature left on the bullet which hit Nicole,” he said.

Parallel NBI probe

Petrasanta has urged Nicole’s neighbors to report other people they might have seen firing guns during the New Year revelry.

“Of course the biggest help will come from witnesses. If they saw their neighbor fire his gun, they should also report it so we can pinpoint other suspects. Perhaps it was not only Agus but many others,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday said she has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a parallel investigation into the death of Nicole.

De Lima said she would also be going to Nicole’s wake last night as President Aquino’s representative, “primarily to assure the family that justice will be served.” With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Jerome Aning


First posted 6:39 pm | Friday, January 4th, 2013

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: .45-caliber pistol , Caloocan City , Crime , Firearms , Gun Control , indiscriminate firing , New Year , New Year Casualties , new year revelry , New Year's Eve , Philippine National Police , Police , senseless killing , Shooting , Stephanie Nicole Ella , stray bullet , Tala

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  2. Chinese lawyers say they were tortured by police
  3. Hair salon’s Kim Jong Un poster riles embassy
  4. Why college grads end up in the PNP
  5. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  6. Town, DENR play tug-of-war over crocodile
  7. Five men from Cavite found dead in jeep in Batangas
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  9. Siquijor ‘healer’: For every cure, there’s a plant
  10. Motorcycle race ends in shooting; 1 killed, 6 hurt
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. Massage attendant arrested on rape complaint filed by Japanese tourist
  3. ‘Tell no one’ Makati bettor won P250M lotto
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  6. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  7. North Korea uses flamethrower to execute official
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  10. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Luzon grid power reserve ‘enough’ for Holy Week
  • Pimentel proposes incentives for companies that will hire ex-convicts
  • State seeks guilty verdict for Abalos
  • SBMA execs, 2 others face graft raps
  • Pangasinan beachgoers warned vs jellyfish
  • Sports

  • My ideal weight is 140, declares Pacquiao
  • Freddie Roach: I’m satisfied; Manny Pacquiao did well
  • New-look Azkals tie Qatari side
  • San Miguel Beermen eye No. 2 slot, battle Air21 Express
  • Filipinos yield to Iraqis anew Asian club volley
  • Lifestyle

  • Celebrate Easter Sunday at Buddha-Bar Manila
  • Moriones feast: A slow, steady transformation
  • Weaving ‘palaspas’ a tradition kept alive in Tayabas City
  • Finalists announced for best translated books
  • Summer treat for your aspiring astronomers
  • Entertainment

  • Miley Cyrus hospitalized, cancels US concert
  • Otaku Summer Jam 2014: Summer’s hottest J-rock/Cosplay event
  • 2NE1 returns to Manila with “All Or Nothing” Tour
  • Gary Valenciano just keeps moving
  • Noisy celeb spews venom, backs off when confronted
  • Business

  • Longer TRO sought on rate hike
  • Make a stylish statement with the all-new Yaris
  • Hearing set in Olarte case
  • BOC sues steel importers
  • BIR continues to miss collection target
  • Technology

  • Tech company: change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  • Filling the digital talent gap
  • SSS to shut down website for Holy Week
  • Another reason to quit social media this Holy Week: your safety
  • Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  • Opinion

  • We may never know
  • Couple of things
  • Mommy D’s magic
  • Stop bizarre and bloody Good Friday rituals
  • Holy Week taboos
  • Global Nation

  • No travel restrictions to Middle East amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Measures set against entry of MERS-CoV
  • Japan backs PH in case before UN
  • Las Vegas union starts pickets over wages, benefits
  • Fil-Am Daly City councilor has eye on Superior Court seat
  • Marketplace