A disgraced former police officer in Thailand killed at least 35 people, including 24 children, in a shooting rampage Thursday that started at a day care center and ended at his own home where he killed his family and himself, authorities said.
Deputy national police chief Lt. Gen. Torsak Sukwimol said the attacks began at about 12:30 p.m. local time in Nong Bua Lamphu province, about 330 miles northeast of Bangkok. Nineteen boys, three girls and two adults were killed at the day care center before the gunman, identified as former police Officer Panya Khamrab, drove off shooting randomly at people on the street, police said.
The suspect drove home and killed his wife and child before killing himself, police said.
A witness told Thailand’s Kom Chad Leuk television they had locked the door to the building when they saw the suspect approaching with a handgun, but that he shot through it.
“The teacher who died, she had a child in her arms,” said the woman, whose name wasn’t given. “I didn’t think he would kill children, but he shot at the door and shot right through it.”
Photos, videos from scene reveal horrors of attack
Photos and videos of the scene posted online showed sleeping mats scattered in a preschool room, its floor smeared with blood, with alphabet pictures and other colorful wall decorations.
Videos carried the sound of wails as frantic family members wept and watched outside the nursery school building. Ambulances stood by as police and medical workers walked in the schoolyard. According to Thai media reports, the gunman also used knives in the attack.
MMASS SHOOTING IN THAILAND:Thai army sergeant who killed at least 26 shot dead in mall, officials say
Suspect had been fired from police force, faced drug charges
Sukwimol told the Bangkok Post that Panya, 34, was apparently under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack. The Post reported that Panya was expelled from the police force in June and that he faced charges related to possession of methamphetamine pills. He was due to appear in court Friday on the drug charges.
Mass shootings are rare in Thailand, although in 2020 a soldier opened fire at a shopping mall and other locations in the southern Thai city of Nakhon Ratchasima, killing 29 people and wounding 58 others.
Firearm-related deaths in Thailand are much lower than in countries like the United States and Brazil, but higher than in countries like Japan and Singapore that have strict gun control laws. The rate of firearm-related deaths in 2019 was about 4 per 100,000, compared with about 11 per 100,000 in the U.S. and nearly 23 per 100,000 in Brazil.
Coverage for USA TODAY subscribers
Contributing: The Associated Press