A cop shoots an unarmed mother and son, you should be mad

Content warning: murder, police brutality

Just a few days from Christmas and months after global protests against police brutality, a family senselessly lost two of its members to the culture of impunity. 

On Sunday, Dec. 21, a CCTV video showing a police officer shooting his unarmed neighbors went viral on social media. In the clip, you could see the three having a verbal argument over the neighbors’ use of improvised firecrackers until the cop takes out his gun and shoots the two, a mother and a son, point-blank. A young girl is also seen in the video screaming, “I don’t care, my father is a policeman.” 

The police was later identified as Police Senior Master Sargeant Jonel Nuezca, says Inquirer, while his victims were Sonya Gregorio and Frank Anthony Gregorio, ages 52 and 25, respectively. 

Nuezca, a cop assigned to the Parañaque City Police Crime Laboratory, surrendered to authorities on Sunday evening and is now detained at the Paniqui Municipal Police Office in Tarlac.

Speaking to the press, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says that the palace condemns the killings, stressing that it was not service-related and Nuezca cannot invoke his job as a defense. According to him, it will be treated like an ordinary homicide case. He also said that “the president will not recall the order that allows cops to carry their guns while off-duty,” and that Nuezca was just one rotten egg.

Culture of impunity

The video is sickening, but unfortunately not surprising. It points to a much larger problem: police brutality and the worsening culture of impunity. Your rage should not just be directed towards Nuezca, who reportedly had previously been investigated for grave misconduct involving homicide twice (both cases dismissed for lack of substantial evidence) before this, but to what he is part of and what he represents—the police system and its fatal issues. 

Killings have risen during the pandemic and quarantine. In September, the non-government organization Humans Rights Watch wrote that “155 persons were killed in the past four months,” with 46 killed in drug-related busts in August alone. This does not include the deaths by assailants with alleged ties to the police, the many activists, doctors and lawyers red-tagged by authorities and subsequently killed by unknown, usually motorcycle-riding gunmen. 

On Aug. 10, Anakpawis chair, activist and peace consultant Randy Echanis was murdered in his own home. Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, a COVID-19 frontliner and Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases head, was gunned down on Dec. 16 while on her way home with her husband.

You can’t claim that police brutality and a culture of impunity do not exist when two people are now lying dead because of a firecracker. There are no “both sides” to this, no differing perspective or explanation that will make it any way justifiable. I don’t care if you think that the Gregorios shouldn’t have gotten into a verbal fight with their neighbor or shouldn’t have used a firecracker. One side is an off-duty police who abused his authority and used his tax-paid, police-issued firearm to shoot two unarmed civilians, while the other side is dead. Without the clear-cut evidence that the video provided, what kind of narrative about their deaths would we have received?

In the video, the young girl, allegedly Nuezca’s daughter, does not flinch when he shoots their neighbors. It’s probably the most chilling aspect of the video. What does it mean for a young child to see two people killed in front of her and have her not react at all? And in a larger sense, what happens to a generation of children for whom killings in real life have been normalized?

Be mad and stay mad. We can’t normalize these deaths. We can’t keep passively waiting for someone to take accountability. We can’t accept these killings as something that just happens, or as just casualties of a broken justice system. The moment we do, more and more people will die, and their blood will be on our hands, too.

If this isn’t enough to finally incite your anger, then what will?


Art by Jan Cardasto

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