By NITZ ARANCON with JIGGER JERUSALEM
and JOEY NACALABAN, Correspondents .
A MISAMIS Oriental policeman on a “covert operation” here missed his target but wounded a man in Puerto, this city, Thursday night. Officials said the policemen subsequently found himself exchanging bullets with another officer, and then three innocent civilians, including a child, were caught in the crossfires.
Camp Alagar and the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office called it a “misencounter” between S/Sgt. Arman Tagolimot of the Misamis Oriental Provincial Police Office and Chief M/Sgt. Jose Ryan Sevillano of the Puerto police station.
Tagolimot and Sevillano were wounded. Caught in the crossfires and wounded were Mary Ann Ordaña, 27; Darlene Vim Eduave, 12; Elenita Salina, 45.
A bystander, identified as 29-year-old Jaymar Canencia, was the first to go down after a bullet presumably from Tagolimot’s gun hit him, police said.
Lt. Col. Mardy Hortillosa, spokesman of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo), said the “misencounter” took place on a road near a Gaisano department store and the public market in Zone 6, Puerto, at around 6:40 pm.
Puerto police officers led by Chief M/Sgt. Vladimer Nalagon Tomada came and rushed the six wounded people, including Tagolimot and Sevillano, to the Puerto Community Hospital.
Hortillosa said Sevillano was subsequently transferred to the Capitol University Medical City while Eduave, one of the civilians caught in the crossfires, was moved to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.
Lt. Col. Surki Sereñas, Camp Alagar spokesman, said all six were already out of danger.
Hortillosa said Tagolimot was doing surveillance work on one Jojo Rosales of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, who has an arrest warrant for murder.
Hortillosa said Rosales tried to shoot Tagolimot with a caliber .38 revolver after he sensed that he was being followed.
Hortillosa said Rosales’s revolver “misfired,” and then Tagolimot took out his gun and fired at the suspect but the officer missed his target — the officer’s bullet hit bystander Jaymar Canencia instead.
Hortillosa said Chief M/Sgt. Sevillano quickly responded after he heard the gunfire and then engaged Tagolimot in a gunbattle.
In the process, the policemen wounded three more civilians in the crowded commercial area in Puerto.
An unscathed Rosales, meanwhile, escaped, and is now the subject of manhunt operations by the Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro police.
Crime scene investigator Lt. Fulgen Ragmac said his team found six caliber .45 pistol cartridges, three deformed caliber .45 bullets, and five 9mm cartridges at the site of the “misencounter.”
Lt. Col. Reynante Reyes, officer-in-charge of the city police office, said, “It was really a misencounter kay kini si Tagolimot adunay gisundan nga suspek. Then, pag-abot sa Puerto area nakamatikod ning suspek, mihulbot sa iyang pusil og magpabuto unta apan wa miboto. Timing tua didto si Sevillano pud.”
In a statement, Camp Alagar suggested that Tagolimot was not operating alone, saying that the police operation was carried out by a “tracker team” from the Misamis Oriental Police Provincial Office and that it was a “covert operation.”
Camp Alagar has not identified other members of the Misamis Oriental’s “tracker team” at presstime.
“One of the members of the said tracker team (Tagolimot), whose mission was to track down and arrest wanted criminals, was tailing one wanted criminal covered with an arrest warrant for murder at Barangay Puerto where the misencounter with another police officer (Sevillano) took place,” said Lt. Col. Sereñas.
Sereñas said an “investigation is ongoing to shed light on the incident and ferret out factual details which will serve as basis for future administrative actions.”
A part of Camp Alagar’s statement reads: “We are deeply saddened with the unfortunate incident…”
Lt. Col. Reyes assured that the wounded would receive police assistance, and that an investigation is underway.