Philippine police have identified the gunman in Friday’s deadly attack on a casino in the capital, Manila, as a heavily indebted Filipino who was hooked on gambling.
The suspect was named as Jessie Javier Carlos, a 42-year-old father of three and former Philippine finance department employee who owed more than $80,000, according to police.
“He is heavily indebted due to being hooked on casino gambling, according to his immediate family,” Oscar Albayalde, chief of Manila’s police office, told a media briefing on Sunday, reiterating the attack was not “an act of terrorism”.
A previous statement by Albayalde, hours after the attack was over, had said that the suspect was likely to be a foreigner.
“He looks Caucasian, he talks English, he’s big and he’s white, so he’s probably a foreigner,” Albayalde told reporters on Saturday. “It’s either he lost in the casino and wanted to recoup his losses or he went totally nuts.”
The casino’s CCTV showed the gunman firing shots at the ceiling and setting gaming tables ablaze.
At least 36 people died, mostly from smoke inhalation as they tried to hide on the second floor, including one the casino’s VIP rooms, police said.
Carlos fled to an adjoining hotel and killed himself.
Video footage shown to reporters Saturday bolstered the government’s case that this was a botched robbery by a lone attacker with no political motives.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group initially carried two statements claiming responsibility for the attack, but they contained discrepancies.
In his first remarks on the assault, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that the attacker was simply “crazy”.
He questioned what the gunman was going to do with the $2m horde of poker chips he had tried to haul away. He also discounted any links to ISIL, saying this “is not the work of ISIS. The work of the ISIS is more cruel and brutal”.
Although the attacker was well-armed – Albayalde said he was carrying 90 bullets in three rifle clips – there are no confirmed reports that he shot any civilians.
Instead, he fired into the ceilings, scattering panicked crowds, some of whom jumped out windows to escape the attack.
Albayalde said the security footage contained a clear motive: the gunman headed straight for a storage room that contained poker chips.
He is seen shooting through several thick white doors, breaking down one of them at 12:18am on Friday – only 11 minutes after his arrival.
Albayalde suggested he set fires as a diversionary tactic and his next move was to try to get out.
Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Manila, said the parents of Jesse Carlos made an appearance during a news conference on Sunday.
“They talked about how surprised they were that their son was involved in the attack and that Jesse was recently separated from his wife and three children.
“He used to work for the Department of Finance of the Philippines government and he was deeply in debt,” our correspondent said.
Alindogan reported that the management of the hotel also faced questions of responsibly during the news conference.
“Thirty-six people died in a single room while police were only perusing a single gunman. There are questions about the sprinkler system in the room; how come the carpets were flammable; and really, what took the so long to attend to the victims, most of them being hotel guests?”
More than 12,000 people were in the complex at the time; most were successfully evacuated.
The taxi driver who dropped Carlos off told police said his passenger spoke fluent Tagalog and appeared normal during the ride.
“All indications … point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual,” said presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella.