Police defend delayed response to Phetchaburi gunman

Police defend delayed response to Phetchaburi gunman

Man slain by commandos 14 hours into standoff was not an 'active shooter' targeting people at random

Pol Gen Torsak Sukwimol (green T-shirt) oversees the police response to a gunman who remained holed-up in a house for hours after killing three people in Muang district of Phetchaburi, on Wednesday night. (Photo: Royal Thai Police)
Pol Gen Torsak Sukwimol (green T-shirt) oversees the police response to a gunman who remained holed-up in a house for hours after killing three people in Muang district of Phetchaburi, on Wednesday night. (Photo: Royal Thai Police)

Police delayed their response for 14 hours before killing a gunman in Phetchaburi because he was not an “active shooter” targeting people at random, according to a deputy national police chief.

Pol Gen Torsak Sukwimol said on Thursday that two of the people Anuwat Laemthong killed were going to testify against him in a court case. The third was an innocent delivery rider who happened to witness the killings.

Three people were also wounded in the 29-year-old gunman’s rampage at the Krungphet Villa housing estate in Muang district of Phetchaburi on Wednesday afternoon. He later retreated into a house and remained there for hours while police attempted to persuade him to surrender. 

All attempts at negotiation, including entreaties from the gunman’s mother, failed and he was finally killed by commandos at about 4am on Thursday.

Pol Gen Torsak was responding to family members of a victim who questioned why police waited so long before ending the rampage. They believe the injured victim could have been saved if he had been moved from the shooting scene right away.

According to Pol Gen Torsak, Anuwat and two other men were scheduled to be in court for witness testimony on Wednesday. He got drunk on Tuesday night and on the following morning he failed to meet his mother at the court.

Instead, he went looking for the two men, friends from the same university, who were to testify against him. He fired six shots at the neck of one man and 15 shots at the other. “He fired until his magazine was emptied,” Pol Gen Torsak said.

At that very moment, an innocent deliveryman was passing the scene and was shot eight times and died. A bullet also grazed the neck of the chief of the Ton Mamuang tambon administrative organisation who was driving by.

“He chose to shoot his adversaries first and had to shoot the other two eyewitnesses,” Pol Gen Torsak said. “He did not fire indiscriminately. So, officers had to resort to negotiations first. The gunman’s mother was brought in to help negotiate.”

Finally the negotiations failed and the gunman cut off all communication channels including Facebook and started firing his gun continuously. At that point, it was decided to enter the two-storey house and deal with the gunman.

Pol Maj Gen Piti Narukatpichai, the Phetchaburi police chief, said the gunman had a 9mm pistol and had ordered bullets online. The first victim was Pasit Em-ot, 21, and the second one was Rathakorn Thongkaew, 22. Both were fourth-year students at Phetchaburi Rajabhat University.

The family of one of the victims complained that if police had ended the situation quickly, their son could have been brought from the scene and saved. Police were going to kill the gunman anyway, they said.

Anuwat had been accused of assaulting one of the men by hitting him in the face with a gun. The second man, the father of a one-year-old child, had been scheduled to testify in court on Wednesday about the attack on his friend. 

According to media reports, the gunman had worked as a temporary ranger in Thap Lan National Park in Prachin Buri province in late 2019. He was on a six-month contract but was dismissed early because he failed to patrol as required. As well, he reportedly had problems with colleagues who tried to convince him not to fire his gun in the forest.

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