3 dead, 1 hurt in court gun attack-A A +A
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
CEBU CITY (Updated) -- On the eve of his birthday, a retired Canadian journalist killed a doctor and a lawyer inside a courtroom in the Marcelo Fernan Palace of Justice in Cebu City Tuesday morning.
John Pope, 66, attacked Dr. Reynold Rafols, a pediatric surgeon, and the doctor’s lawyer, Jubian Achas, while they waited for a hearing inside the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 6 at 8:20 a.m.
Pope then went from the right wing of the building to the other side, where he shot Assistant Cebu City Prosecutor Maria Theresa Casiño, in the hallway outside MTCC Branch 1.
Casiño remained in the intensive care unit of a private hospital Tuesday night, with a bullet still lodged in her nape.
A police official later said that two officers had to shoot Pope in a stairwell of the court building, after he tried to fire at them.
He died in a private hospital less than three hours after the shooting. He would have turned 67 today, Wednesday.
The attack raised questions about the security of judges, court workers and litigants in the Palace of Justice, which is located behind the Provincial Capitol.
Authorities still have to find out how Pope acquired two guns, when the law prohibits foreigners from owning them, and how he got them inside the courtroom during an election gun ban.
Dr. Rafols, who used to be neighbors with Pope, once accused the man of waiting outside his and his wife’s clinic in May 2011, while carrying an unlicensed gun.
Homicide investigators said Rafols and Achas were both hit in the head.
Pope then went to the ground floor and looked for three other prosecutors there, police said.
They were not in.
When he went out, Pope was met by PO2 Celso Rivera Jr. and PO1 Oriel Hagupit. The police officers shot the foreigner, after the latter allegedly tried to fire at them.
Pope was hit in the head, left thigh and left upper arm, police said.
According to homicide investigators, he was declared dead at 10:50 a.m. by Dr. John Viola of the Cebu Doctors’ Hospital.
Natuel said he will recommend Rivera and Hagupit for promotion.
Hagupit works with the Regional Public Safety Batallion and was one of the policemen assigned to guard the Capitol.
Chief Inspector David Patriana of the PNP Crime Laboratory said they recovered a .45 pistol loaded with seven bullets inside Pope’s black sling bag and a .357 revolver with two bullets intact in its chamber.
SPO2 Zosimo Rabanes, who was on his way to a hearing, was the first to help Prosecutor Casiño, radio dyHP reported.
Rabanes met Pope when he was walking upstairs. The police officer was not in uniform and was attending a hearing in the MTCC Branch 6.
After hearing two gunshots, he rushed back to the courtroom and was told that Pope had shot Rafols and Achas.
Rivera, a member of a Cebu City police task force against illegal drugs, said he was inside the comfort room when he heard two gunshots. When he went back to the courtroom, he saw Rafols and Achas sprawled on the floor.
After witnesses told him what happened, he went outside the courtroom, got his firearm and tried to look for Pope until he saw him on the first floor.
In a phone interview with Sun.Star Cebu, Jojo Cornejo, elder brother of Casiño, said his sister was in the intensive care unit Tuesday night.
“Doctors will still have to observe (her condition) for seven to 10 days. As of now, the bullet is still inside,” Cornejo told Sun.Star Cebu.
He added that Casiño remained responsive and conscious.
Acting Police Chief Natuel, meanwhile, said they are waiting for an autopsy to explain who fired the gunshot in Pope’s right temple.
“The two (police officers) alleged that Pope pulled the trigger while holding the gun to his head. Traces of gunpowder were also seen on Pope’s head,” said Natuel.
After Pope was gunned down, he was rushed to a private hospital by a Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) vehicle, but was declared dead at 10:50 a.m.
Among those who witnessed the shooting of Prosecutor Casiño was court maintenance personnel Helen Rivera.
Rivera, 45, said she was vacuuming the hallway on the court’s fourth floor when she saw a foreigner who went inside the MTCC Branch 1. He seemed to be looking for someone.
The foreigner, she said, then went out of the courtroom.
When Prosecutor Casiño passed by him on the hallway, Rivera said, Pope pulled out his gun and shot the prosecutor, then walked away.
Although she was about to faint, Rivera said she managed to call for help from the court personnel who, along with policemen, rushed Casiño to the hospital.
Court worker Romnie Fernan, who takes charge of criminal case records at the MTCC Branch 1, recalled that Pope had gotten mad at Prosecutor Casiño, after she asked the court to issue an arrest warrant against Pope. She had alleged that he failed to attend hearings of his case for grave threats.
Apart from the grave threat case, Pope also faced cases of unjust vexation, qualified trespass to dwelling, and malicious mischief in various court branches in Cebu City.
After shooting the three persons on the fourth floor, Pope went downstairs and proceeded to the City Prosecutor’s Office.
He allegedly tried to enter Prosecutor Oscar Capacio’s office but it was locked. Pope then went to the cubicle of Prosecutor Naruzen Lorete, but did not find her there.
Pope proceeded to the office of City Prosecutor Nicolas Sellon. It was after he left Sellon’s office that he met the two policemen.
Capacio said he was driving to work when he received calls and text messages informing him about the shooting.
When he arrived in his office, Capacio said he learned that there were still two live bullets loaded in Pope’s revolver. (Sun.Star Cebu)