Marianas Variety

Friday, December 19, 2014-2:59:06A.M.

Last updateFri, 19 Dec 2014 11am


NEWS UPDATE (6): Police officer shoots woman, self; both are dead

AN on-duty police officer shot his girlfriend in the head and then shot himself also in the head following a verbal altercation at her workplace in Garapan on Friday morning.

Joanna T. Vitug, 30, died at 11:55 a.m., while PO1 Christopher S. Santos, 24, died at 12:56 p.m. after they were rushed to the hospital, the Department of Public Safety said. The couple had a child, Variety learned.

Vitug, a mother of four, was a staffer at Mailman & Kara LLC law office at the Juan T. Guerrero Bldg., which is near Garapan Elementary School.

At noon time, attorneys Bruce Mailman and Maya Kara arrived at their office with a police detective.  Kara declined to comment on what she described as a “tragic incident.” Vitug was the receptionist at the law office and Variety also learned that the mother of Santos also worked there and witnessed the shooting incident.

DPS Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero, who was at the scene shortly after the incident, held a press conference at past 4 p.m. and, on behalf of his department, extended his condolences to the bereaved families.

“This could not have come at a worse time for both families especially in this holiday season,” the DPS chief said. “Today is a sad day for the men and women of the Department of Public Safety. We express our deepest regrets to both families and also to the members of the community for this unfortunate incident."

In a separate media release, the Office of the Commissioner of Education said that at 11:41 a.m., Friday, it was informed by the  vice principal that gunshots were heard in the vicinity of Garapan Elementary School. The emergency lock-down procedure was then implemented, requiring all teachers, staff and students, including visitors, to remain inside the classrooms until an all-clear signal was given by DPS. The all-clear signal was received by the school at 11:50 a.m.

The Office of the Commissioner of Education said Garapan Elementary School and the Public School System responded accordingly to ensure the continued safety of their students, and are joining the rest of the community in expressing their deepest sympathies to the victims' families.

In its statement, DPS said that at approximately 11:08 a.m., Friday, the police received a call about a shooting incident at the Mailman & Kara law office. Responding police officers immediately secured the area and saw the bodies of Vitug and Santos who were then brought  to the Commonwealth Health Center where they succumbed to their injuries.

“According to witness accounts, the two individuals engaged in a minor verbal altercation before the police officer fired his DPS-issued firearm at the female victim before firing upon himself,” DPS said. It described Santos as “a four-year veteran, uniform services officer with the Department of Public Safety.”

Deleon Guerrero said DPS and the FBI processed the crime scene and collected evidence, and “will release more information at the conclusion of the investigation.”

Outside the law office, there was a marked police vehicle in the parking lot behind  police tape. Crime scene technicians were also seen taking photos and taking down plate numbers of the other parked vehicles.

Police didn’t confirm if the marked police vehicle was used by Santos.

Deleon Guerrero said Santos was on-duty, wearing a police uniform on Friday morning, and was assigned to provide guard duties  at the residence of Gov. Eloy S. Inos. After consulting with his supervisor, Santos left his guard duty on Friday morning “to go buy some things,” Deleon Guerrero said, adding that Santos never returned to his post.

Deleon Guerrero said they are still waiting for the forensic results in order to determine if Santos indeed used his DPS-issued 9mm handgun.

He said he is also closely working with an organization that offered to provide counseling intervention to the first responders in Friday's shooting incident. Similar counseling interventions were likewise provided to the first responders in the shooting incident involving a police officer and his girlfriend in 2013 in the parking lot next to True North Bar & Grill in Garapan.

On Jan. 13 of that year, Police Officer Josef Deleon Guerrero, 24, shot his girlfriend, also 24, following a “domestic dispute,” with his DPS-issued handgun, and then shot himself. He died but his girlfriend, who was shot in the shoulder, survived. (With Junhan B. Todino, Emmanuel T. Erediano)

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