Thai policeman “Joe Ferrari” charged with murder of drug dealer
A Thai police colonel, nicknamed “Jo Ferrari” for his extravagant collection of cars, and six other police officers were charged with murder on Wednesday for allegedly killing a suspected drug dealer as he tried to extort money from him , the authorities said.
Col. Thitisan Utthanaphon and the other officers also face charges of extortion, dereliction of duty and involuntary imprisonment for the August 5 incident at their post, Ittiporn Kaewtip, Porte – speech of the attorney general’s office.
The suspects, who also include a police major, a captain and a lieutenant, could face the death penalty if found guilty.
The attorney general must now decide whether to send the case to court, deputy spokesman Prayuth Petchkhun said.
The case sparked public outcry after video of the incident was shared on social media which appeared to show Thitisan was directing a fatal assault on the suspect.
Allegations of police brutality and corruption are rife in Thailand, and international rights groups have called for the officers involved to be held accountable.
Thitisan visited after a nationwide manhunt and had the unusual opportunity to speak to reporters and answer their questions by phone during a somewhat surreal press conference called by the police to announce his arrest.
He denied any involvement in a shakedown and insisted he was trying to get information from the drug dealer about where he had hidden his main supply of methamphetamine.
“Since I have been in the police force, I have never been involved in corruption,” said the colonel. “I had no intention of killing him. I just wanted to do my job.
Thitisan, who was the station chief in Nakhon Sawan province, north of Bangkok, disappeared shortly before the video was released on social media.
Video shows the suspect handcuffed into a room, his head covered in a black plastic bag.
He was then assaulted and thrown to the ground by officers who put other bags on his head. One of them seems to kneel briefly on top of him until he becomes limp.
The video was posted by a well-known lawyer, Decha Kittiwittayanan, who said he received a complaint from a junior police officer, Nakhon Sawan.
The complaint alleged that police demanded 1 million baht (£ 22,000) from the 24-year-old man who was killed and his partner, who was arrested with more than 100,000 methamphetamine pills.
After agreeing to pay, Thitisan allegedly demanded double that amount and ordered his subordinates to cover the suspect’s head with a plastic bag and beat him until he agreed.
When the suspect died, Thitisan reportedly ordered his men to take the body to hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose.
The junior police officer said the woman was released but told not to say anything about it, and that Thitisan paid the victim’s father to remain silent.