LEGAZPI CTY: A 10-hour hostage-drama unfolded in a village in Pili, Camarines Sur province, Tuesday as the world was preparing for the celebration of the New Year, killing at least five members of a prominent family, including the hostage-taker himself.
Police authorities refused to call the incident a hostage-taking that began as early as 6 a.m. and ended 4 p.m., saying the suspect did not make demands. The police said it was a depressed person allegedly using drugs compounded by his recent separation from his wife who ran amok.
The incident took place at the hectare-size residential and business compound of the prominent Zepeda family in Barangay San Roque, said Bicol Police Chief Supt. Victor Deona.
Deona said he had ordered deeper investigation surrounding the case whether the suspect was alone in carrying out the crime inside the Zepeda compound.
Reports said there were a total of seven gunshots heard during the hostage-taking. The suspect is said to be a member of the province’s shooters club.
The Zepeda family is engaged in the production of animal feeds and maintains several rice mills from Pili town to Albay.
According to Vice Mayor Rogelio Regondola of Pili, the suspect, identified as Anthony Zepeda, 35, used a .45 pistol that killed his father, Expedito, brother Victor and wife Sharmaine, and a cousin household helper named Emily. He then shot himself in the head.
A police report added that the suspect had also fired indiscriminately hitting three persons inside the compound. It was not clear if the three wounded victims were inside or outside the house. They were initially identified as Rene Vicencio, Jocelyn Adizas, and one whose identity has not been provided. The wounded victims were declared by doctors out of danger, the source said.
The Pili police chief, Senior Insp. Benjamin Spana, reported that one Gello Gallardo, also a member of the household was able to flee the Zepeda house when the arguments between the suspect and his father heightened during the 9 a.m. breakfast where he saw the suspect hit his father with the table chair. As early as six a.m. the suspect had already been arguing with his father and brother Victor, quoting the household helper.
A source said the suspect who was said to be a drug user was abandoned by his wife and heaped the blame on his father for the cause of their separation.
The police report said the suspect had refused to dialogue with the hostage crisis committee team during the hostage drama until 4 p.m. when they heard the last two gunshots from the crime scene finally forcing the police who stayed in the ground floor of the house to storm the two-story residence. They found all the five victims dead in one room at the second floor.