Philippine police say casino attacker was indebted gambler

Armeen Gomez, second from left, chief security officer of Resort World Manila, points to the cctv footage where private guards engaged the gunman in a firefight as they play a video of the gunman who stormed the casino and hotel complex at a news conference on Saturday, June 3, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. Police say a gunman stormed the crowded Manila casino and used gasoline to set gambling tables on fire, creating clouds of smoke that swept through the crowds and killed dozens of people. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
In this image made from security video released by Manila Police and Resorts World Manila on Saturday, June 3, 2017, a gunman collects casino chips in the Resorts World entertainment and gambling complex in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines on Friday, June 2, 2017. Dozens were killed during the attack, mostly from smoke inhalation after the gunman set fires inside. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Nanilo Cadallo, an attendant of a gas-filling station, watches a video of a gunman, whom police authorities identified as Jessie Carlos, who bought liters of gasoline from him, during a news conference Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind a deadly attack on the casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino who was hooked on gambling, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terror-related. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Mourners in the Philippine capital, Manila, light candles and lay flowers in front of a memorial outside the Resorts World Manila entertainment complex on Saturday, June 3, 2017. On Friday, a gunman entered the complex and set fire to its casino, triggering a blaze that left at least 38 people dead. (AP Photo/Todd Pitman)
Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde comforts Teodora Carlos, the mother of a gunman who stormed the Resorts World Manila following a news conference Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind the deadly attack on the casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terrorism-related. The man's immediate family confirmed his identity as Jessie Carlos — a married father of three and former Finance Department employee who owed more than $80,000 dollars. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
In this image made from security video released by Manila Police and Resorts World Manila on Saturday, June 3, 2017, a gunman walks up a flight of stairs in the Resorts World Manila entertainment and gambling complex in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines on Friday, June 2, 2017. Dozens were killed during the attack, mostly from smoke inhalation after the gunman set fires inside. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde holds a copy of an image of a gunman who stormed the Resorts World Manila complex whom he identified as Jessie Carlos during a news conference Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind a deadly attack on the casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino who was hooked on gambling, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terror-related. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Employees of Resorts World Manila Casino and Shopping mall light candles at he memorial for the victims of the deadly attack by a lone gunman, Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind the deadly attack in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terrorism-related. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde holds a copy of an image of a gunman who stormed the Resorts World Manila complex whom he identified as Jessie Carlos during a news conference Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind a deadly attack on the casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino who was hooked on gambling, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terror-related. At left is the gunman's father Fernando Carlos. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Teodora Carlos and Fernando Carlos, the parents of a gunman who stormed the Resorts World Manila complex speak during a press conference as they apologize for deeds of their son Jessie Carlos Sunday, June 4, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. The lone suspect behind the deadly attack on the casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim the assault was not terrorism-related. Jessie Carlos was a married father of three and former Finance Department employee who owed more than $80,000 dollars. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
This image taken from TV of CCTV video shows a gunman firing a weapon into the air inside a casino in the Resorts World Manila complex before starting fires and firing on security forces Friday June 2, 2017. The attack on the complex killed over 30 people. Philippine police say the attacker was a tall, English-speaking white man with a mustache. They say he carried an assault rifle and that he used gasoline to start a casino fire that caused clouds of smoke. (AP Photo)
In this image made from security video released by Manila Police and Resorts World Manila on Saturday, June 3, 2017, a gunman walks away after setting fire to a gambling table in the Resorts World Manila entertainment and gambling complex in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines on Friday, June 2, 2017. Dozens were killed during the attack, mostly from smoke inhalation. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines — The lone suspect behind a deadly attack on a casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict, police said Sunday, bolstering their claim that the assault was not terrorism-related.

The man's immediate family confirmed his identity as Jessie Carlos — a married father of three and former Finance Department employee who owed more than $80,000.

The revelations confirm that "this is not an act of terrorism," Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde told a news conference. "This incident is confined to the act of one man alone as we have always said."

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Friday's attack on Resorts World Manila, where 37 patrons and employees died, mostly from smoke inhalation as they tried to hide in one of the casino's VIP rooms on the second floor. But authorities have rejected the militants' claim, saying there is no evidence to back it and pointing out that the assailant shot no civilians during the two-hour ordeal despite being heavily armed.

The Philippines has faced a Muslim insurgency in the country's south for decades, and Manila has been on edge since government forces began battling Islamic militants who besieged the southern city of Marawi.

On Sunday, Carlos' father told reporters that his son had no connections to terrorism. Carlos' distraught mother, Teodora, wept and asked for forgiveness.

"We're asking for your apology. We can't accept ourselves that my son became like this, he was a very kind son," she said. "He chose to end his life rather than ... kill people."

"The message of what happened to my son is people should not get hooked on gambling so their families won't get destroyed," she said.

Carlos' wife was also brought before reporters. She was so distressed, she entered in a wheelchair and kept her head, hidden by a cream-colored towel, down on a desk as she sat beside the police.

Albayalde said that Carlos had sold off property, including a vehicle, to support his gambling habit of at least several years. His family had grown so concerned, they had asked casinos in the capital to ban him from entering since April 3.

The breakthrough in efforts to identify him came when investigators traced his path to the casino from a Manila suburb where he had hailed a taxi after midnight Thursday. They found his wife there early Sunday.

She told them she had seen images of her husband on TV. "She knew it was him, but she was really afraid," Albayalde said.

In 2014, Philippine newspapers had reported that Carlos was fired from his job at the government's Finance Department "for grave misconduct and neglect of duty" because he failed to disclose that he owned a Manila house, a Toyota SUV and other business interests — an annual requirement for government officials and employees.

As a result, he was permanently banned from government employment and his retirement benefits were forfeited.

Authorities on Saturday released video footage of the attack to bolster their argument that it was a botched robbery attempt by one man with no known link to terrorism.

The security footage showed Carlos casually exiting a taxi just after midnight and walking calmly inside the entertainment complex. Shortly afterward, he dons a black ski mask, slips on an ammunition vest and pulls an M4 carbine assault rifle out of his backpack.

What followed borders on the surreal: a slow-motion arson attack and robbery so methodical and unhurried, the gunman appears to walk much of the way — even as he exchanges fire with a security guard and flees, slightly wounded, up a stairwell.

As thousands of people flee, the gunman is seen torching gambling tables and slot machines, setting fires police believe were meant as a diversionary tactic to allow his escape.

Then, just 11 minutes after his arrival, Carlos fires through the door of a storage room filled with poker chips, hauling a huge stash away.

He was later found dead on the fifth floor of a hotel connected to the complex, the 38th fatality of the night. Police said he shot himself and set fire to the empty room he had burst into.

___

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

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