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When A Police Operation Turns Into A Bloodbath (Updated With Timeline)

August 24, 2010

Even as it had dragged on for most of the daytime hours, the negotiations for the heavily-armed disgraced police officer to release the 25 passengers of the tour bus he commandeered appeared to be going well.

Before sundown, ex-police captain Rolando Mendoza had already freed nine of his hostages while there were meetings at the Office of the Ombudsman to revisit its decision dismissing the one time top cop for his involvement in a 2008 extortion case.

But with the whole world watching on live TV, Mendoza’s traffic cop brother was forcibly dragged away by police on the suspicion that Gregorio was helping his brother.

Minutes after that scene, a burst of gunfire was heard from inside the bus followed by the bus driver somehow managing to escape — shouting to the crowd that “all of the hostages have been killed.”

All hell broke loose from with the bus being assaulted in helter skelter fashion with all caution about the safety of the remaining captives seemingly forgotten.

It took nearly one hour before the assault ended with Mendoza and 8 of the hostages dead.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and in this case the gross mishandling of the negotiations, and the assault, played out right before our eyes.

Here’s the timeline of the incident:

Timeline: Manila hostage crisis
August 23, 2010
10:00 a.m. — Police received a report that former senior inspector Rolando D. Mendoza commandeered the Hong Thai travel bus with license plate TUU 799 bus with an M-16 rifle and several short firearms. Twenty five people were onboard the bus — 21 Hong Kong nationals and four Filipinos. The bus came from nearby Fort Santiago and parked near the Quirino Grandstand for the passengers to have lunch.
Few minutes later– Hostage-taker released two women: Diana Chan and an unidentified friend.
10:30 a.m. –Mr. Mendoza released four more hostages, Tsang Yee Lai, 40; her two children, Fu Chung Yin, 4, and Fu Chak Yin, 10; and a family friend, Wong Ching Yat Jason, 12. Around this time, Senior Police Officer 2 Gregorio D. Mendoza, a brother of the hostage-taker who is also a policeman, asked permission from the authorities to let him negotiate with his brother but his request was denied.
Minutes before noon — A seventh hostage was released, Lee See Kyu, 73.
Minutes before 1 p.m. — A gallon of gasoline was loaded into the bus as per request of Mr. Mendoza. Packed meals for the hostages were also distributed.
2:19 p.m. –The eight hostage, Rigor Cruz, a Filipino and the assistant photographer for the trip was released. Around this time, the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned Superintendent Orlando Yebra and Chief Inspector Romeo Salvador to negotiate with Mr. Mendoza. The Manila city government also set up a crisis management led by Vice-Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.
4:37 p.m. — Danilo Medril, another Filipino photographer on board the tourist bus, was released.
4:45 p.m. — Food and drinks were loaded into the bus.
6:20 p.m. — The negotiators, this time with Mendoza’s brother Gregorio, handed over a notice to the hostage taker from the Office of the Ombudsman promising an immediate review of his ouster case. Mr. Mendoza refused to accept the offer as it only said reopening of his case. He asked for a formal dismissal of his case.
Around 6: 30 p.m. –Two gunshots were heard from the bus. Over a radio interview, Mr. Mendoza threatened to kill the hostages if the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) would not vacate the area.
7:07 p.m. — Mr. Mendoza reiterated to kill all hostages left in the bus, all 15 people. He refused to talk to any of his family members.
7:30 p.m. — Alberto Lubang, the driver of the bus, was released. He later told the police that all of the hostages in the bus were shot dead.
7:37 p.m. — The police assault team started to surround the bus. They started to smash the main entrance door and front windshield of the bus with a mallet. SWAT members were able to penetrate the bus through the emergency door but Mr. Mendoza fired at them.One official was reported injured while a civilian bystander, a woman, was hit by a stray bullet.
8:40 p.m.– SWAT members threw a teargas into the bus through a side window.
8:41 p.m. — Gunshots were heard. Minutes later eight Hong Kong nationals came out from the bus alive while some bodies were lifted out from the bus.
9:19 p.m. — A radio report said five hostages were brought to the Manila Doctor’s Hospital. Four of them were dead, two women and two men. One man underwent surgery.
10:30 p.m. — Two Hong Kong nationals, were transferred to Manila Doctor’s Hospital from Ospital ng Maynila. As the confusion died down, Mendoza’s limp body was seen slumped over the shattered door of the bus with police reporting he was shot by a sniper as he tried to fire back at the assault team.
Around 11:00 p.m. –In a press briefing, Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona said the hostage crisis killed nine, including the hostage-taker, and injured eight others.

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