The National Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate whether or not an 18-year-old man with autism in Valenzuela died in scuffle with police or was shot dead by authorities, the mayor said Tuesday.
Erwin Arnigo was shot in a brawl after police tried to breakup a tupada or cockfighting ring in Assumption village that is banned during the COVID-19 quarantine, said Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the Philippine National Police chief.
Arnigo's family, however, said he was shot at a nearby homeowners' office and was dragged to the tupada to make it appear that he was shot there.
"Kailangan ng NBI suriin kung anong version 'yung tama, ano ang nangyari talaga?" Mayor Rex Gatchalian said.
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Bear-hugged, shot and dragged?
Arnigo's mother, Helen, told TeleRadyo that the family was informed that her son was shot not too long after he stepped out to buy ice candy. She said police prevented them from bringing him to the hospital.
"Yung papa n'ya at saka mga kapatid n'ya na pumunta doon para matulungan ang anak ko na maisugod, hinarangan po ng mga pulis na bumaril sa anak ko. Wait lang daw po, easy lang, easy lang. Sumigaw na ang anak ko, 'easy lang po ba e kapatid ko 'yan? Special po 'yan. Paano ninyo masasabi na easy lang?'" she said.
Arnigo died from a bullet that hit his lungs and pierced his heart, based on an autopsy report. The eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen police shooting him at the homeowners office were afraid to speak up against police, she said.
Gatchalian, quoting the family's recollection of the eyewitness accounts, said police pushed and bear-hugged Arnigo before shooting him.
Arnigo's shirt was missing from his body and her mother suspects that police took it off because the garment had fingerprints from muddied hands. There was a puddle of mud beside the homeowners' office where they believe he was shot.
"Kilalang-kilala po 'yan sa buong Assumption na matulunging bata. 'Pag may nakita siyang nahihirapan, tutulong po siya kahit walang kapalit po."
Or shot during a scuffle?
Eleazar said Valenzuela police responded to a complaint on Sunday afternoon and confirmed there was an illegal cockfighting operation in Assumption Village. They arrested Arnigo and two others and confiscated fighting cocks and over P1,000 in bet money.
Arnigo was shot after one of the two others who were arrested grabbed a policeman's gun, triggering a scuffle, Eleazar said.
"Our police operatives immediately brought Arnigo to the Valenzuela Medical Center where he was declared dead," Eleazar said. The policeman whose service firearm hit Erwin was disarmed and placed under restrictive custody.
The PNP's Internal Affairs Service will investigate the incident separately for possible lapses, he said.