NAKHON RATCHASIMA – As mourning began for the victims of Thailand's worst mass shooting, the country counted its losses: a mother shot dead at the wheel of her car as her son sat beside her, a 13-year-old student gunned down as he was riding his motorbike home and more than two dozen other people.
Authorities said the attack was carried out by a single gunman — a disgruntled soldier who opened fire on strangers before he was fatally shot Sunday at a shopping mall. Another 58 people were wounded.
The dead were mourned Sunday night in Nakhon Ratchasima, a hub for Thailand’s relatively poor and rural northeastern region. More than 1,000 people turned up for the vigil led by Buddhist monks. They lit candles and prayed and chanted in the town square featuring a statue of Thao Suranari, a governor's wife who is revered for leading troops against invaders from Laos two centuries ago.
Officials said the gunman was angry over a financial dispute with his commanding officer. He made Col. Anantarote Krasae his first victim before stealing guns from an army camp and heading to the mall, shooting wildly along the way at people inside and outside the building.
The attacker was identified as Sgt. Maj. Jakrapanth Thomma, who holed himself up in the 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.
After most mall employees and shoppers were evacuated, a joint police and military team hunted down the gunman and killed him.
"This incident was unprecedented in Thailand," Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters as he gave a casualty count after visiting the victims in hospitals. By the end of the day, the toll had risen to 29 people killed.
The death toll surpassed Thailand's last major attack on civilians, a 2015 bombing at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine that was allegedly carried out by human traffickers who killed 20.