A Phnom Penh police lieutenant who shot and seriously injured the Wat Phnom commune police chief while in a drug-fueled delirium on Friday night has been charged with attempted murder over the incident, a court official said on Wednesday.
Both the suspect, first lieutenant Sin Sothearith, and the victim, Born Sam Ath, are still receiving treatment for gunshot wounds at Calmette Hospital. Mr. Sothearith, 32, was subdued by two bullets fired by military police shortly after he shot Mr. Sam Ath in the chest—two centimeters from his heart, according to police—and then kicked him in the neck.
“We charged him with three separate crimes: first, attempted murder; second, illegal use of a weapon; and third, possession of illegal drugs,” said Chea Pich, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, adding that Mr. Sothearith would be sent to Prey Sar prison to await trial when his wounds healed.
Mr. Sothearith, an officer in the Phnom Penh police’s serious crimes bureau, shot Mr. Sam Ath when the commune police chief intervened to stop the methamphetamine-addicted officer from robbing his own mother at her home in Wat Phnom commune at about 11 p.m. on Friday.
After briefly evading a contingent of military police who followed Mr. Sam Ath to the scene, he was brought down by two bullets—one in the buttocks, another in the shoulder—and taken into custody. Authorities later found three small bags of meth on his person.
In an interview earlier this week, an unfortunate bystander described getting caught in the crossfire. Eam Bunthet, 34, had been driving home in his Honda CRV when Mr. Sothearith ran up to his car and rapped on the driver’s side window with a handgun.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” Mr. Bunthet recalled. “He tried to break the window, but it was OK, and then he pointed the gun at me.”
“I opened the window and asked, ‘What’s up?’ And then he ordered me to get out and give him the vehicle,” he said, adding that military police then began firing at Mr. Sothearith, but initially missed the officer and riddled his SUV with bullets instead.
“Military police shot multiple times from behind and damaged my car with five bullets,” he said, explaining that two rounds smashed out a passenger window while the other three punctured the rear bumper.
Mr. Bunthet said he would not be filing a complaint about the damage, a process he described as “a waste of time and a lot of work.”