MANILA, Philippines–After having been absolved by the police as suspects in the death of stray bullet victim Stephanie Nicole Ella, four men who admitted to taking turns in firing a gun on New Year’s Eve got another reprieve of sorts from the Caloocan Prosecutor’s Office.
This, after Caloocan Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Nida C. Gravino on Friday afternoon junked charges of illegal discharge of firearms and negligence against gun owner and army reservist Juan Agus, and Arcadio Gulmatico, Eddie Magtubo, and Feliciano Cercano, who were his drinking buddies on New Year’s Eve.
Instead, Gravino approved of charges of alarm and scandal only against the four.
In a telephone interview, Gravino said she dismissed the charge of illegal discharge of firearms against the four because there was no sufficient proof of their acts.
“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.
The charge of negligence against Agus for letting his drinking buddies take turns in firing his .45-caliber gun was also junked.
A P1,000 bail has been recommended for the temporary liberty of the four suspects.
However, despite having only one out of three charges filed against them, the four suspects will still face preliminary investigation for the case of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.
“Our City Prosecutor, Ferdinand Valbuena, ordered me to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if there is probable cause to file charges of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide in Nicole’s case against the four suspects,” Gravino said.
The hearing will be conducted next week, she said, and the police can submit additional evidence for the case.
Meanwhile, the Caloocan Police are looking at 45 gun owners in the Malaria district in North Caloocan who could have fired bullets which led to the death of Ella.
“This is the number of people who own a .45 caliber gun in the area,” Superintendent Jackie Candelario, Caloocan Police assistant chief for operations and concurrent spokesman, said in a telephone interview.
The police narrowed it down to .45 cal. guns after finding out that the bullet which hit Ella on her head came from a gun of similar caliber.
Candelario added that the bullet which hit Ella came from about 50 meters away from her, or about as long as the long side of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, or about half of 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 cal. gun owners in Malaria as there is a possibility that the gunman was just visiting in Ella’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.