Early on Friday morning, in the Philippines, a lone gunman who is believed to have had mental issues stormed into the Resorts World Manila casino, attempted to steal casino chips worth over a million dollars, overturned gambling tables and then started fires that killed 36 people from smoke inhalation before he committed suicide. Based on initial reports of the incident, President Donald Trump blamed the attack on the Resorts World Manila casino and resort, and the 36 deaths, on an act of terrorism; however, that proved not to be the case, according to authorities in Manila.
CNN reported that, according to Southern Police District Director Superintendent Tomas Apolinario, it does not appear that the 36 victims were shot, but that they died due to smoke inhalation and “suffocation.” He stated that most of the victims were females, adding that they “were found dead inside the bathroom.”
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde said a search of Resorts World Manila for victims was delayed because of the thick smoke produced by the fires that the suspect had set. Albayalde stated that the 36 bodies were discovered in the casino area of the popular resort. He stated that the windows were all locked in that area.
Terrorism has been ruled out by the police. Albayalde said the attacker, who forcibly entered Resorts World Manila around midnight local time (ET) on Thursday, was armed with an automatic rifle. When she saw the suspect’s automatic rifle, the lone security guard panicked.
Security camera footage shows people inside the casino hurriedly heading for the exits. Gunshots can be heard, and other footage by media sources shows smoke coming from the building.
The male suspect who shot up Resorts World Manila and set the fires responsible for causing the deaths of the 36 victims was found by the police hours later in a hotel guest room on the fifth floor, after he had committed suicide. Speaking to reporters, Albayalde said that the suspect had set himself on fire inside the room.
The suspect had been “burned beyond recognition.” Next to his body was a .380 caliber pistol and “a machine gun.” There were 54 people who were injured due to the actions of the lone gunman.
In a statement by Resorts World Manila posted on Friday to its Facebook page, authorities speaking for the casino and resort wrote that the 54 people had been transported to local hospitals and were receiving medical treatment. Philippines National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa said early Friday at a press conference that the suspect had shot into the air, but had not shot at anyone. He stated that the casino guests who had been injured got their injuries from jumping out of windows to escape the lone gunman.
According to the New York Times, witnesses described the masked suspect as being “big” and “white,” with a mustache. They said he also spoke English.
Reuters reported that the gunman’s possible motive was robbery, but that it was “botched.” Though the suspect had attmepted to steal casino chips worth “113 million Philippine pesos ($2.27 million)” he was not successful, and the chips have been recovered.
A spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, Ernesto Abella, said no evidence has linked the apparent attempted robbery gone wrong at Resorts World Manila with ongoing warfare government troops have been engaged in with Islamist militants in the south. Abella said that what the lone gunman had tried to pull off seemed to have been “a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual.”
Abayalde said that the gunman “could have inflicted maximum casualties but he did not.” The director general of the national police, Ronald Dela Rosa, said that the police have had time to clear everything, stating that the “situation” is now “back to normal” at Resorts World Manila.
There have been conflicting reports as to how the lone gunman finally met his end. Dela Rosa stated at Friday’s press conference in Manila that the police chased the gunman inside the building, and inside hotel room 510, the suspect poured gasoline on himself, got under covers on the bed, set the covers on fire, then put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
Terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, located about a mile from Resorts World Manila, were placed on lockdown. An airline official said that the lockdown has since been lifted but the airport is still operating under “heightened alert.”
In the Philippines, on Thursday, around midnight, a lone gunman killed 36 people at Resorts World Manila after he shot an automatic rifle in the air, overturned gaming tables and set fires. The thick smoke caused by the fires caused the victims to die from smoke inhalation. The motive seems to have been robbery, as the gunman tried to steal over a million dollars worth of casino chips, but was unsuccessful. The suspect later apparently lit himself on fire and put a gun to his head, in an act of suicide, in a room on the hotel’s fifth floor.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy Facebook