Face to face with terror
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Face to face with terror

The attack at Siam Paragon mall has left deep scars on survivors

A file photo shows shoppers racing from the Siam Paragon shopping complex to escape the shooting there on Oct 3, which killed two women, a Chinese tourist and a Myanmar worker, and injured five others. Nutthawat Wichieanbut
A file photo shows shoppers racing from the Siam Paragon shopping complex to escape the shooting there on Oct 3, which killed two women, a Chinese tourist and a Myanmar worker, and injured five others. Nutthawat Wichieanbut

One survivor of the Siam Paragon shopping mall shooting attack recalled the moment when she faced the 14-year-old shooter while running up an escalator.

She thought she was fleeing to a safe place. Instead, she saw the boy standing on the other end of the escalator. He turned toward her and promptly fired his gun.

Anyapat Thipjirasakul recalled: "When I saw him, I quickly turned back and ran down the escalator as fast as I could. I heard about four shots. One bullet hit me. I felt pain in my left shoulder but I could not stop.

"I jumped down the escalator. I fell but had to keep running, as I was afraid he would follow me down." She ran toward the entrance gate among the crowd, some of whom were screaming and crying.

"It was horrific. I barely slept during my first night. Whenever I close my eyes, I see him and hear the sound of the gun," she said from a hospital.

Anyapat is among the seven people who were shot by the teenager in the afternoon of Oct 3. About 40 bullet shells were found later, mostly scattered on the second and third floors, by Scientific Crime Detection Division police.

Penpiwan Mitthampitak, 30, another survivor, is in a critical condition. She was shot in the head and twice more in the right chest.

Chinese national Li Sha, 30, had two gunshot wounds to her chest, one to her back and another to her right arm. Her condition is stable.

Laotian national Kham Phiou, 28, was shot in her shoulder. She is under close monitoring by a doctor as the right part of her body is weak and can hardly move.

Thai national Wichen Vijikhaki, 41, was shot in the back. He is now safe. Two victims who died were Chinese national Zhao Jinnan, 34. She died at the scene while Myanmar national Moe Myint died later at hospital.

About 3.15pm on Oct 3, CCTV images show the long-hair boy, wearing a cap, a black hoodie jacket, khaki military pants and black boots, walking with a backpack from his condo to the BTS Skytrain.

He took the train and entered the mall at 3.35pm. He went to a restroom on the M floor, took off his jacket and left his bag on a toilet lid. At 4.10pm, he embarked on his shooting rampage, first hitting Ms Kham, a cleaner who was working inside the male restroom.

A witness said she heard gunshots from the restroom but did not dare to go out while many shoppers squeezed inside the female restroom, hiding for their lives.

She said it was fortunate the shooter walked past the women's restroom. He started walking from one floor to another. He even took a break to check out Twitter and clicked "like" on news about his crime.

Identifying himself

About 4.46 pm, the Special Operations Division, known as the 191 Unit, received a call asking if the police knew about the shooting at Siam Paragon shopping mall. After the agent said yes, he replied: "I am the shooter."

Phanop Worathanatchakul, commander of the division, said his call was transferred from the first agent to an experienced negotiator, Pol Capt Possawat Jongjit.

The policeman asked if there was anything he could do. He also asked for his name and location.

The policeman said the voice on another end said he did not know exactly which floor he was on, but he was sitting on a sofa.

Calling on his wits, the officer asked if he was at the furniture shop on the third floor. The teenager said yes. The information was relayed to another team of police on the ground.

During the conversation, the shooter sometimes asked for his father, said Pol Capt Possawat.

At one point, he said he pointed the pistol at himself. He also cried when asked if he would be jailed. "I'm only 14 years old. Will I be sent to jail? Will I be safe?" Pol Capt Possawat recalled the conversation.

The policeman told him to lay down the weapon, which was later identified as a modified blank gun that the shooter bought online.

The officer also told him to leave the shop to meet a team of police waiting outside. The teenager said he couldn't move. He saw many dark shadows outside the shop so asked the police to come in and get him instead.

Pol Capt Thanamorn Nunarod, who led the arrest team, said he saw the teenager talking on the phone while telling him to surrender.

"I told [the teenager] to throw down his weapon, put his hands on the back of his neck and sit on his knees. He seemed to think for a while. Then I had to show him that I had a more powerful weapon." He then surrendered. The shooter was caught at 5.10pm.

Calling for attention

The shooter was well prepared to commit his crime, said Pol Lt Col Kritsanapong Phutrakul, chair of the faculty of criminology and justice administration at Rangsit University.

"He did not shoot anyone while walking to the BTS station. He chose the large shopping mall in the middle of the city and also chose a time when the mall was crowded so his actions created panic among the public," he said.

Thais cannot recall such a horrific crime being committed by an offender as young as 14, which has raised questions about his upbringing.

Dr Woroj Chotipitayasunon, a spokesman for the Department of Mental Health under the Ministry of Public Health, said there was not enough information to confirm or deny whether the shooter was mentally ill.

On Oct 6, the shooter was admitted to Galya Rajanagarindra Institute for psychiatric observation for five days.

"The teenager mostly shot women, except for one man who is a security guard. We need to know how he selected his targets or if they were just random," he said.

The teenager was also active online and liked playing shooting games. He also honed his skills at shooting ranges, visiting more than dozen times.

Dr Woroj said there is no absolute answer as to whether playing violent games leads to violent behaviour.

On Saturday, the suspect's father attended the funeral of victim Moe Myint at Wat Phasuk Manee Chak in Nonthaburi, killed in the attack.

He wanted to apologise to Khin Win, Moe Myint's mother, who travelled from Myanmar for the funeral of her daughter, the breadwinner of the family.

The shooter's father kneeled before Khin Win and asked for her forgiveness on behalf of his son. The mother pulled the man towards her, as he tried to hand her compensation in a white envelope, which was promptly refused.

"My daughter is worth more than anything in this world. She can't be exchanged with your money," she said to the father.

Her remarks were translated into Thai by a close friend of her daughter.

"I am not angry with you. I just want justice for my daughter," she spoke calmly.

She laid her hands on his shoulders and said: "At least I am lucky that I had a good daughter who cared for me and took care of me since she was 16.

"I felt sorry for you that you have a wicked son. You might feel grief more than I do. As a parent, I want to express my sympathy and want to give you my moral support," she said.

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