BANGKOK —A 50-year-old engineer who shot a 17-year-old student dead over a parking conflict begged out of a planned meeting with the authorities Friday.
Suthep Poshsomboon and his wife were scheduled to appear at the Justice Ministry on Friday afternoon to seek advice and protection, as Suthep has allegedly received death threats over the weekend incident which has become a matter of heated national debate.
His lawyer postponed the meeting as Suthep was ill, according to Dusadee Arayawuth, a deputy permanent secretary.
While the case remains under investigation, before-and-after footage of the incident has raised questions about whether Suthep acted in self-defense when he shot Nawapol Puengpai to death Saturday in Chonburi province – and debate over whether he should be punished.
Suthep has been charged with one count of murder and one firearms-related count of illegal weapons possession. He is free on bail.
The confrontation started when a van carrying a group of teenagers blocked Suthep’s vehicle by double-parking on the road and became fatal later when they cut off Suthep on the road and exited their vehicle.
Many were initially sympathetic when footage, taken at a distance, supported Suthep’s story that he was unable to flee and acted in fear of his family’s safety. A second video came out of the teens menacing Suthep. After a third video came showing he might have provoked a confrontation with the intention of shooting the teen, many still expressed support for his actions:
“I am 53 years old. I have to lay down for kids to kick me because they are still kids, right?” TV host Kiat Kitcharoen wrote Wednesday on Facebook. “If I have a gun but can’t shoot it, then what should I do with it? Throw it away?”
“You did your best. I am on your side,” Kerdphol Kaewkerd, an attorney, wrote on Facebook to Suthep. “If you don’t have a lawyer, I am happy to be your lawyer.”
“I can feel on much he cared about his family at that time,” user Puncharat Jumnan wrote in reply to the second video. “He’s willing to be jailed to protect his family members.”
Another video, which appeared online Thursday, showed the initial dispute in which the van blocked Suthep’s car by double-parking in the inner lane.
Suthep’s wife can be heard asking the van to move, to which the teenagers tell her to wait. Suthep then appears to become angered and starts to shout and curse and argue with the teens.
When the van eventually drives away, Suthep’s wife can be heard saying, “give me the gun.”
“I’ve prepared. I’ll just shoot them,” Suthep says to her in response.
Suthep then can be heard honking at the van as he overtakes it.
Footage emerged Thursday in which Suthep seems to plan shooting one of the teens and provokes the confrontation where he does so.
Other footage from a security camera posted online Saturday night shows the van pursue the car and cut it off.
Suthep, who turned himself in that same night, said he fired the gun to scare off the teenagers after they chased and surrounded the car also carrying his wife, mother and child. The security camera footage confirms Suthep’s account.
The teenagers however, said they only left the van to talk to Suthep.
The case and videos of what happened have been hotly debated online.
Another scene of dash cam footage from Suthep’s car was posted Wednesday and recorded the conversation before the shooting. From the angle, the teenagers are seen walking to Suthep’s car.
Footage appeared online Wednesday in which one of the teens demands Suthep get out of his car.
“You think you are cool, you fucking bastard?” one of the teens asks. “Get out of the car.”
Suthep is heard pleading with them.
“I’m with my mom and my kid, I beg you,” Suthep’s voice can be heard responding.
After the sound of a gunshot is heard, Suthep says to his wife that he shot at the group because they punched him.
Chonburi police commander Somprasong Yentuam said police had obtained the video Saturday after the incident, but they still needed more time to question witnesses and gather additional evidence.
The video drew a lot of support for Suthep from the online community as he was perceived to have been in danger.
Deputy police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen said Thursday the case was still under investigation and the charges could be changed after more evidence is gathered.