MANILA - A gunman on Monday (March 2) held dozens of hostages for nearly 10 hours inside a popular shopping mall at a commercial hub east of Manila.
In a bizarre ending, the hostages were led out through one of the mall’s doors, and then the suspect was allowed to rant for about 20 minutes in front of a small group of journalists.
He was eventually tackled to the ground by police as he again became belligerent, suggesting he still had a weapon on him.
At least one mall security personnel was shot.
Brigadier-General Johnson Almazan, head of the Eastern Police District, said gunshots were heard at V-Mall in San Juan’s Greenhills commercial district at about 10am.
Videos on social media showed thousands of shoppers, vendors and mall staff fleeing for the exit, and a Swat team taking position.
The mall’s doors were locked, and onlookers were told to stay away.
But a small army of journalists were allowed to linger, as the hostage taker, identified in police reports as Archie Paray, 31, demanded media coverage, so he could air his grievances in public.
San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora said Paray, who used to work as a guard at the mall, shot security supervisor Ronald Velita twice as he made his way to the mall’s administration office.
He then locked himself inside the office and held around 60 people who were inside as hostages. Mr Velita was taken to a hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition.
Paray was fired from his job as a security guard weeks ago and had not been seen since.
He returned on Monday to “make some demands”, said Mr Zamora.
“He seemed to have taken his firing badly. He was trying to convince other guards to join him in some sort of coup d’etat against the mall management… He shot someone, so he’s hostile,” he said.
Paray later showed himself holding a grenade in a video chat via Facebook with a group of reporters.
In that same chat, he showed images of his hostages and demanded that four top officials from his security agency hold a news conference so they could publicly apologise for sacking him. That demand was met.
The four officials read statements in front of reporters apologising to Paray and telling him they were resigning from their agency
One of them sought to clarify that Paray was not sacked, but was only being transferred to another post.
“It’s an operational issue. He probably felt bad because he was being rotated,” said Mr Frederick Gravador, assistant director at the Sascor Armor Security Agency.
That failed to pacify Paray, who had demanded that the four officials be made to eat peso bills.
But hours later, at around 8pm, the hostages began coming out of the mall. Then Paray himself stepped out, was handed a microphone and began speaking to reporters at the scene.
He ranted about purported corruption in the management of security guards at the mall, and said he had been plotting to seize hostages and draw media coverage since December. “When I was planning this, I was already considering that I might die,” he said.
Then, as he talked about wanting to end up in a cemetery rather than in jail, that he was “ready to kill myself now”, a policeman grabbed him from behind. Others quickly piled on top of him to subdue him.
He was then led away in handcuffs.
V-Mall is a popular destination for those looking for cheap mobile phones, electronic items and knock-offs of luxury brands.
The incident evoked memories of a mass shooting last month in Thailand, when a soldier armed with an assault rifle went on a rampage at a military base and a shopping mall in the north-eastern city of Korat.
He killed at least 29 people and wounded 58.
The gunman’s lengthy standoff with authorities ended on Sunday morning, when a raid led to a flurry of gunfire that killed him.