Thai gunman who killed 21 in rampage shot dead in mall

International

People who were able to get out of Terminal 21 Korat mall, are escorted outside by armed commando soldiers in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. A soldier who holed up in a popular shopping mall in northeastern Thailand shot multiple people on Saturday, killing at least 20 and injuring 31 others, officials said. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalitkanjanakul)

NAKHON RATCHASIMA, Thailand (AP) — A soldier who killed at least 21 people and injured 42 others was fatally shot inside a mall in northeastern Thailand on Sunday, officials said, 16 hours after he went on a rampage that started on a military base and ended with him holed up in the busy shopping center.

Officials said the soldier angry over a financial dispute first killed two people and then went on a far bloodier spree Saturday, shooting as he drove to the mall where shoppers fled in terror.

Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Kongcheep Tantrawanich said Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma was behind the attack in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand’s relatively poorer and rural northeastern region. Much of the shooting took place at Terminal 21 Korat, an airport-themed mall filled with colorful Lego sculptures, a merry-go-round and huge replicas of landmarks from around the world.

Vehicles block the road in front of Terminal 21 Korat mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. A soldier who holed up in a popular shopping mall in northeastern Thailand shot multiple people on Saturday, killing at least 20 and injuring 31 others, officials said. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalitkanjanakul)

Video taken outside the mall showed people diving for cover as shots rang out mid-afternoon Saturday. Many were killed outside the mall, some in cars, others while walking.

Nattaya Nganiem and her family had just finished eating and were driving away when she heard gunfire.

“First I saw a woman run out from the mall hysterically,” said Nattaya, who shot video of the scene on her phone. “Then a motorcycle rider in front of her just ran and left his motorcycle there.”

A group of armed commando soldiers are seen outside Terminal 21 Korat mall, in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020.A soldier who holed up in a popular shopping mall in northeastern Thailand shot multiple people on Saturday, killing at least 20 and injuring 31 others, officials said. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalitkanjanakul)

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the mall in small batches by police while they searched for the gunman.

“We were scared and ran to hide in toilets,” said Sumana Jeerawattanasuk, one of those rescued by police. She said seven or eight people hid in the same room as her.

“I am so glad. I was so scared of getting hurt,” she said.

Shortly before midnight, police announced they had secured the above-ground portion of the mall, but were still searching for the shooter. About 16 hours later, officials held a news conference outside the mall to announce the gunman was fatally shot.

The officials did not release any details.

This is a photo of a wanted poster released by Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 showing the suspect in a mass shooting in Northeastern Thailand. A soldier shot multiple people in northeastern Thailand on Saturday, killing at least 16, and was holed up in a popular shopping mall, an emergency worker said. (Crime Suppression Division of The Royal Thai Police via AP)

Defense Ministry spokesman Kongcheep told Thai media that the first person killed was the commanding officer of the 22nd Ammunition Battalion, in which the suspect also served. He said the gunman had fired at others at his base and took guns and ammunition before fleeing in an army Humvee.

City and neighborhood police officers, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to release information, said the man fired shots as he drove to the mall. Thai Rath television aired mall security camera footage showing a man with what appeared to be an assault rifle.

The man also posted updates to his Facebook page during the rampage.

“No one can escape death,” read one post. Another asked, “Should I give up?” In a later post, he wrote, “I have stopped already.”

Bullet holes mark the glass wall of the Terminal 21 Korat mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. Thai officials say a soldier who went on a shooting rampage and killed numerous people and injured dozens of others has been shot dead inside a mall in northeastern Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

A photo circulated on social media that appeared to be taken from the Facebook page shows a man wearing a green camouflaged military helmet while a fireball and black smoke rage behind him. Jakrapanth’s profile picture shows him in a mask and dressed in military-style fatigues and armed with a pistol. The background image is of a handgun and bullets. The Facebook page was made inaccessible after the shooting began.

Terminal 21 Korat, a multi-level glass and steel mall is designed to resemble an airport terminal, complete with a mock control tower and departure gates. A large model passenger jet dangles from wires beside one of the main escalators.

Each of its seven retail floors is decorated to represent a different country. A giant replica of Paris’ Eiffel Tower soars to the ceiling, while a model of London’s Big Ben dominates another area, and a massive model of California’s Golden Gate Bridge spans an open courtyard. A two-story golden Oscar statue towers over a food court.

Many malls in Thailand, including Terminal 21’s namesake in Bangkok, have metal detectors and security cameras at entrances manned by uniformed but unarmed security guards. Checks on those entering are often cursory at best.

An armed commando soldier shouts for ambulance outside Terminal 21 Korat mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. A gunman described as a soldier angry over a financial dispute killed a few people and then went on a far bloodier rampage Saturday in northeastern Thailand, shooting as he drove to the busy mall where shoppers fled in terror. Multiple people were killed in all, more people were injured. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Gun violence is not unheard of in Thailand. Firearms can be obtained legally, and many Thais own guns. Mass shootings are rare, though there are occasional gun battles in the far south of the country, where authorities have for years battled a long-running separatist insurgency.

The incident in Korat comes just a month after another high-profile mall shooting, in the central Thai city of Lopburi. In that case, a masked gunman carrying a handgun with a silencer killed three people, including a 2-year-old boy, and wounded four others as he robbed a jewelry store. A suspect, a school director, was arrested less than two weeks later and reportedly confessed, saying he did not mean to shoot anyone.

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