MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) The identities of the suspected robbers who engaged the police in a gunfight in the middle of a Makati street Thursday remained unknown but the police said Friday they had uncovered some clues about the group.
The clues included amulets they wore that were similar to those worn by the suspects who staged a P2.7 million heist along Gil Puyat Avenue in front of Caltex gas station in June, in which two of the suspects died, the police said.
Thursday's gunfight also involved two fatalities: Police Officer 2 Warren Balang, a policeman who tried to accost the group, and one of the suspects, Noel Compoc, whose real name, police later said, was Jimmy Espina.
National Capital Region Police Office Director Geary Barias said it was highly probable that the suspects in Thursday's incident belonged to the same group who staged the June robbery.
He said the initial investigation indicated that the group known to use such amulets hailed from Ozamiz City.
"Whether they are remnants of Kuratong Baleleng or Ampang Colangco group, we still do not know," Barias said at a press conference at the Makati police headquarters.
The police were on patrol duty when the incident happened. Based on the initial probe, Balang's patrol unit had noticed a van parked along Makati Avenue and Balang approached the vehicle when the suspects suddenly opened fire.
The suspected robbers allegedly grabbed Balang's M16 Armalite rifle. Balang's partner, Police Officer 3 Rommel Salcedo, returned fire using his shotgun, killing Espina.
An ID for Golden Star Daily newspaper bearing Espina's face with Compoc's name was recovered, but police verified that he was actually Espina. The newspaper also denied having Compoc in its staff.
Espina's cell phone number was also traced to a mobile phone found in the June robbery. The phone had Espina's number under the alias "Bulldog," Barias said.
The police chased the van up to Mandaluyong City, where the suspects abandoned their getaway vehicle, an FX van. The police recovered three "baby" M16 Armalites, as well as Balang's M16 automatic rifle, and a grenade launcher.
Barias said they had also traced the serial numbers of the recovered weapons to two security agencies but the numbers had likely been tampered with.