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Gun-cleaning a common excuse of people attempting to commit suicide –Dr. Fortun

People who attempted to commit suicide by shooting themselves usually use accidental firing of the weapon as excuse to cover up their act, Dr. Raquel Fortun said Tuesday, citing her experiences as a forensic pathologist.

“From my experience, 'yang ganyang senaryo ang madalas na ginagamit na excuse para sabihin na ang isang tao [ay] 'di nagpakamatay,” Fortun said, in response to “News To Go” anchor Howie Severino's question on whether it is common for gun owners to accidentally shoot themselves while cleaning their guns.

“I have encountered that a lot na sasabihin hindi siya nagbaril sa sarili, ang nangyari, it was an accidental fire kasi naglilinis lang siya ng baril,” she added.

The question was in relation to the claim of the family of Cavite Vice Governor Jolo Revilla that he accidentally shot himself on his right upper chest while he was cleaning his .40-caliber Glock pistol on Saturday morning inside their home in Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

Though now in a stable condition, Revilla, son of detained Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., remains at the intensive care unit of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City following the incident.

Safety procedures

Fortun said that though it is hard to conclude right now on what really transpired during the incident, there were safety procedures that should have been observed by Revilla.

“Common sense will tell you, and I'm sure the PNP (Philippine National Police) will agree kasi nagbibigay sila ng mga gun safety seminar... na kapag naglilinis ka ng baril or kapag naghahawak ka ng baril, you have to make sure kung loaded ba ito o hindi. Kung naglilinis ka, dapat wala yang bala. Tanggal dapat ang magazine,” Fortun said.

“Ilang beses mo dapat bubuksan just to make sure na walang naka-load na bala, pwede mo pa ngang i-test fire sa ere just to make sure na wala... Kasi kung marunong ka talagang maglinis ng baril, why would you do it with a loaded gun?” she added.

Fortun, however, was quick to stress that such an act alone should not be used as basis in concluding that Revilla deliberately shot himself.

She pointed out that the location of Revilla's entry wound, which is just above his right nipple, is a common area where a person can accidentally shoot himself.

“Ang chest ay tinatawag na anatomically accessible. Pwede mong mabaril ang sarili mo sa chest. Ang most common [part of the body] kung sadya, is actually sa area ng heart. As described, nasa kanan, nasa taas daw ng right breast [ang shot ni Revilla], 'di yan typical na site kung sadya,” Fortun said.

Holistic probe

She, however, reiterated that the incident must be investigated hollistically and not just on a single aspect.

Fortun said among the most important factors that the investigators must look into is the nature of the gunshot wound, especially the entrance wound or the part of the victim's body where the bullet entered.

“Maraming answer na mabibigay ang examination ng sugat mismo, lalo na 'yung entrance wound. For one thing, maari niyang ma-determine kung gaano kalayo , at least mae-estimate mo 'yung layo ng nguso ng baril sa balat,” Fortun said.

Fortun explained that in cases of accidental fire, there is usually a distance between the tip of the gun and the part of the victim's body.

“Kung accidental fire 'yan, hindi 'yan nakatutok. Malamang 'yan may distansya... dito makikita mo [sa wound] 'yung tinatawag na stiffling or tatooing,” she said.

Distance between gun, skin

On the contrary, Fortun explained that when the shot was made deliberately, the tip of the gun usually touched the part of the body.

“Kung nakatutok yan, it signifies intent or ibig sabihin talagang sadya, and nakakakita [sa gunshot wound] 'yung itim-itim, kasama 'yun ng pagsabog ng pulbura or minsan yung pattern ng nguso ng baril, nandun din sa balat [ng biktima],” Fortun said.

Fortun said investigators must also examine intermediary objects such as the victim's clothes as it can also help determine the distance of the gun from the body when the shot was fired.

Other factors that investigators must also look into, according to Fortun, are the scene of the incident and the testimonies of the victim's family members and other people who may have observations about the behavior of the victim.

Fortun said it is also very important for the investigators to examine the gun involved in the incident.

“Dapat tinitignan mo din yung scene, anong klaseng baril, anong klaseng bala, ano ang sinasabi ng mga tao,” she said.

She, however, admitted that a caliber 40 Glock pistol, the type of gun involved in Revilla's shooting incident, usually have advanced safety features.

“On the top of my head, that is a pistol and ang mga pistol, in modern times, is talaga namang much improved at may mga safety features,” Fortun said.

“So dapat ma-examine talaga yung baril sa nangyaring insidente, like, may magazine bang nakakabit, ilang bala nandun, ilang basyo ang nakitang tumalsik sa scene. So, madaming factors na dapat tiningnan,” she added. —Elizabeth Marcelo/KBK, GMA News