A determined thief learned the hard way that toy guns are not very effective in carrying out armed robberies, especially when the intended victim is packing real heat. At 12:15 am on July 11, Pol Lt Col Prayong Khotsakha, an Inspector with Udon Thani’s Muang District Police, received a report of an attempted robbery at a small gas station in Tambon Nakham, about 17 kilometers out of town along the road from Udon Thani to Sakhon Nakhon. Arriving at the scene with fellow officers, he found a critically-injured man lying beneath a dark blue Honda motorbike, with a single .22 caliber bullet wound to the left side of his chest. Beside him on the road was a replica gun. Later identified as 29-year-old Wiwat Santiwattanakul. whose first name means “Peace” and whose surname means “Clan of the Peaceful and Prosperous”, the injured man was rushed to Udon Thani Central Hospital. The gas station owner, 59-year-old Somchai Thongnarong, told police that one of his pump attendants, 25-year-old Phichit Channarong, had also been shot in the robbery attempt and had been rushed to hospital earlier. K. Somchai said he closed up the two-pump station as usual that night at 10 pm, turning out the lights and retiring inside the office with his wife. Sleeping on a cot outside, in front of the pumps, was K. Pichit – presumably to watch over the pumps or service any late-night motorists who desperately need fuel after the official closing time. He had with him a shoulder bag. K. Somchai recounted, “I was awoken suddenly by the sound of Phichit screaming, ‘Help! It’s a robbery!'” Sliding open the window of the office, K. Somchai saw his trusty worker grappling with the robber, the pair spinning in circles, each trying to get control of the shoulder bag. Nearby on a motorcycle sat two more thugs, armed with knives and watching the proceedings. “As soon as they saw me through the window, they raised their knives and started toward me. But they stopped in their tracks when I let off a warning shot,” he said. But the warning shot did not deter the third thief from trying to steal the shoulder bag, and his struggle with K. Phichit continued. “That’s when I took aim and fired. But my shot hit K. Pichit in the arm and he fell to the ground. “After that, the assailant pulled out his own gun and trained his sights on me. But I fired first, hitting him in the chest,” he said. They say there is honor among thieves, but on this night it was apparently in short supply. Rather than help their wounded comrade, the two knife-wielding accomplices jumped on their motorcycle and sped off. Wiwat, the man of peace, tried to do the same. Despite having a bullet lodged in his chest, he got on his motorcycle, money bag finally in his possession, and began to drive off. He didn’t get far, however, before losing his balance and falling to the road. K. Somchai, who had been operating the station for many years, said he bought the gun after he was robbed of 5,000 baht in cash and a mobile phone during a similar attack in June 2003. He had already used the weapon to fend off another robbery attempt in January, 2004, he added.
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