CEBU CITY – Police shot and arrested early Sunday morning the alleged hitman in the fatal ambush of a lawyer’s wife and her two companions in Barangay Lawaan III, Talisay City.
Ex-convict Tommy Echavez, 39, was hit in his left cheek during a brief gunfight.
Operatives of the Talisay City Police Station were acting on a tip that the suspect was spotted in Sitio Cadicay at 8:32 a.m. He was reportedly visiting a friend who had recently arrived from abroad.
Senior Police Officer 1 Mikie Espina told Sun.Star Cebu that Echavez was outside the wooden house, armed with a gun, when the police arrived.
The suspect went back inside, which prompted the police to look for a vantage point. When Echavez noticed them, he allegedly opened fire but missed.
A gunshot rang out again after Espina returned fire and grazed the suspect’s body.
Echavez fired at the policemen again then tried to flee by breaking and jumping out of a window.
Police Officer 3 Ferdinand Pablo, however, caught up with him.
A shot sent Echavez to the ground, and he was rushed to the Talisay City District Hospital. He was later transferred and is now under hospital arrest in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.
His arrest Sunday stemmed from a warrant for unlawful possession of firearms, for which Echavez was first arrested in November last year.
Regional Trial Court branch 10 Judge Soliver Peras issued the warrant last February 3, after Echavez failed to show up in court. He had previously posted a bond.
Confiscated from his possession were a .45 pistol with three chamber-ready live ammunitions, a hand grenade, two cellular phones and a wallet.
Two empty shells fired from .45 pistols were recovered in the crime scene.
Echavez was tagged as the unmasked motorcycle-riding assailant of Virginia Sesbreño, the wife of lawyer Raul Sesbreño, by witnesses.
Last February 1, two men on a motorcycle peppered Virginia’s vehicle with bullets when their pickup stopped for a red light at the junction of Rabayan St. and the Cebu South Coastal Road in Barangay Cansojong, Talisay City.
Her death, along with that of 30-year-old Joshua Young and 51-year-old Soledad Epanto, were believed to be linked to a land dispute and demolition in Barangay Lawaan.
“We are now going after the mastermind or the principal by direct inducement,” said Talisay City Police Station Chief Eddie Recamara, after Echavez’s arrest.
A cross-matching examination will be conducted on the recovered items to find out if the firearm seized from Echavez was the same one used in the ambush.
The cellular phones will also be examined.
Criminal complaints for multiple murder will be filed against Echavez and his cohort-driver today, Monday, in the Talisay City Prosecutor’s Office.
The news about the arrest elated Peter Lim Sesbreño, the victim’s son.
“Nagpakita lang gyud nga gibuhat sa polis ilang trabaho. Hinay-hinay na nga mahatagan ug hustisya akong mama (This shows the police are doing their jobs. Little by the little, justice will be delivered for my mother),” he said in a phone interview.
He said they will also give the P50,000 reward to whoever assisted in the suspect’s arrest.
Meanwhile, the suspect’s live-in partner, Ma. Michelle Villordon, lashed out at police officers upon their arrival at the hospital, asking why they had to shoot Echavez.
Villordon, in an interview, said they only went back to Echavez’s hometown to attend the annual fiesta and for the baptism of their three-month-old baby. They live in Minglanilla.
She couldn’t believe Echavez was accused of being a hitman.
“Wala man gane na siya’y ikahatag namo? Naa ‘ta na siya’y kwarta daghan (He can barely support us. If he was truly a hitman, he would have lots of money),” Villordon said.
They have three children.
Echavez’s mother Patricia, on the other hand, reportedly suffered a heart attack while tending to her son inside the emergency room.
A nephew of lawyer Raul Sesbreño visited the hospital and reportedly spoke with the suspect’s mother about the threat he received from Echavez.
The man, who requested not to be named for security reasons, told Sun.Star Cebu they received a report Echavez was an ex-New People’s Army member.
“Dili na siya ordinaryo ra nga gun-for-hire. Daghan na kayo ng gi-igo (He is no ordinary hired gun),” he added.
He is now being watched by the police, while in hospital confinement. (Sun.Star Cebu)