Ex-cop kills 22 children, 12 others in mass shooting at daycare center in Thailand

People gather outside the scene of a mass shooting at a day care center in the town of Uthai Sawan, 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok in Nong Bua Lamphu province, Thailand, October 6, 2022. (Sakdipat Boonsom / Handout via Reuters)
  • Shooter identified as former police officer who was fired last year
  • The attacker was in court earlier in the day on drug charges
  • Attack started around noon, distraught parents await news
  • According to police officials, witnesses said the attacker also brandished a knife

A former police officer killed 34 people, including 22 children, in a rampage at a daycare center in eastern Thailand on Thursday and later shot dead his wife and child before at her house pointed the gun at himself, police said.

Police identified the attacker as a former member of the force, who was fired from his post last year on drug allegations. He was on trial on a drug charge and had been in court in the hours leading up to the shooting, police said.

District police officer Chakkraphat Wichitvaidya cited witnesses who said the gunman was also seen with a knife in the attack in the town of Uthai Sawan, 500 km (310 miles) northeast of Bangkok in Nong Bua Lamphu province.

About 30 children were at the center when the gunman arrived, fewer than usual as heavy rain had kept many people away, county official Jidapa Boonsom, who was working at a nearby office at the time, told Reuters.

“The gunman came in around noon and first shot dead four or five officers at the daycare,” Jidapa said, adding that among them was a teacher who was eight months pregnant.

At first, people thought the gunfire was fireworks, she said.

“It’s really shocking. We were very scared and ran to hide when we knew there was shooting. So many children have been killed, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The shooter entered a locked room where children were sleeping, Jidapa said. She said she thought he killed children there with a knife.

Videos posted to social media showed sheets apparently covering the bodies of children lying in pools of blood.

Reuters could not immediately authenticate the footage.

Police spokesman Paisan Luesomboon told ThaiPBS that the gunman was at a court hearing related to a drug case on Thursday and went to the daycare to find his child, but the child was not there.

“He was already stressed and when he couldn’t find his child, he was even more stressed and started shooting,” Paisan said, adding that he then drove home and killed his wife and child there before he could took his own life.

Gun laws are strict in Thailand, where possession of an illegal firearm is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but ownership is high compared to some other countries in the region.

Illegal weapons, many imported from riot-torn neighboring countries, are widespread.

However, mass shootings are rare. In 2020, a soldier angry over a real estate deal gone awry killed at least 29 and wounded 57 in a rampage that spanned four locations.

– Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; writing by Martin Petty and Robert Birsel; Edited by Kim Coghill and Clarence Fernandez