Murder raps await ‘poker high roller’ in road rage slay
As soon as the police showed him a photo of Fredison Atienza, Michael Mendoza—the older brother of road rage victim Anthony Mendoza—burst into tears.
“That’s him. [I’m] 101 percent sure,” Michael said. “The incident flashed back to me. I can’t be mistaken. It’s him.”
Three days after Anthony was shot dead at the corner of D. Tuazon Street and Quezon Avenue in Quezon City by the driver of a Toyota Land Cruiser, the police finally identified the alleged gunman: 45-year-old Atienza.
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director, Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar, described Atienza as a “high roller poker player,” based on information found online.
On Saturday afternoon, Anthony was driving a motorcycle with his brother Michael as his backrider when he got into an argument with Atienza. Their heated exchange ended with the suspect pulling out a gun and shooting Anthony in the head.
Anthony, a 27-year-old information technology professional who was all set to marry his longtime girlfriend next year, died on the spot.
The QCPD on Tuesday said it was able to to identify Atienza following some confusion about the Land Cruiser’s plate license.
Witnesses earlier told the police that the SUV being driven by the gunman had the license plate AHA 3454. When a check with the Land Transportation Office showed that the plate had been issued to a Toyota Avanza, authorities re-examining the footage taken by other closed circuit television cameras in the area.
One camera later showed Anthony’s motorcycle and the Land Cruiser on E. Rodriguez Avenue minutes before the shooting.
It also showed the SUV’s license plate AHA 3458. The vehicle was found to be registered to Hazel Joyce Atienza of Grace Village, Quezon City.
“Our operatives spoke with the owner and her mother,” Eleazar said. “They said the one who used the vehicle that day was her father and he was not home that time.”
According to the QCPD chief, the district command has received surrender feelers and the suspect is expected to present himself to authorities today.
The photograph of Atienza, also known as “Son Son,” was taken from his now-deactivated Facebook account. It can also be seen on the website https://asia.pokernews.com. The photo was accompanied by a 2010 report about the suspect leaving a poker tournament table with P26,900 in his pocket.
Suspect started argument
Michael, who faced reporters in a hoodie while his face was concealed by a ballcap and handkerchief, said Atienza started the altercation.
“Anthony noticed that it seemed like [Atienza] wanted to hit our motorcycle. When he pulled up beside us, he rolled down his window and asked if there was a problem,” he recalled. “My brother politely said no but told the suspect that he almost sideswiped us.”
Michael said he told his brother to just move on and forget about it. But when Anthony heeded this advice and stopped talking to the suspect, Atienza allegedly shouted: “Why, did I hit you?”
“Then Anthony cursed, not at [the suspect] but under his breath,” Michael said. “The driver cursed too, then bang! He shot my brother at the back of his head.”
Eleazar said they discovered two handguns registered in Atienza’s name: a .45-cal. STI and a Glock 9mm. The licenses for both firearms were expired.
Police investigators recovered a slug from a 9mm at the crime scene. Eleazar said a cross matching request had been filed in the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory.
“We are still in hot pursuit of Atienza who will be charged with murder,” he added as he confirmed that the suspect, now considered “armed and dangerous,” was still in the country.
Marianne Reginaldo, Anthony’s fianceé and girlfriend for 13 years, pleaded with Atienza to surrender.
“We don’t want your money because you took a life away from us,” she said.
At 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, the suspect’s Land Cruiser was turned over to authorities upon the instructions of Mark Petriarca, Atienza’s legal counsel.
Alfamil Yap, reportedly a friend of Atienza, drove the vehicle to the QCPD headquarters in Camp Karingal.
Supt. Rodelio Marcelo, chief of QCPD’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, said Yap “picked up the car” somewhere in Bulacan province.
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