Police Officer Shot After Shooting Police Chief

A commune police chief and a municipal serious crimes police officer were hospitalized with gunshot wounds sustained in a Friday-night shootout in Phnom Penh that ensued when the allegedly drug-addicted municipal officer tried to rob his mother.

Deputy Daun Penh district serious crimes police chief Yin Sophal said on Sunday that the mother of Sin Sothearith, 32, the municipal serious crimes police officer, called Wat Phnom commune police on Friday night to complain that her son was using drugs.

He said the mother told police that her son had locked himself inside her bedroom to rob her and that she had placed a padlock on the outside of the door to prevent him from escaping.

Mr. Sophal said the commune police chief, Born Sam Ath, sent two officers to help her and eventually arrived himself. He said all three went to the house unarmed, believing the suspect was not dangerous.

The mother had removed the padlock from the door by the time the officers arrived, he said, explaining that as Mr. Sam Ath was approaching the house, the son came out and shot him.

“He shot the commune police chief in the left chest. It was about two centimeters from his heart. He was lucky; if the bullet had hit his heart he could have died,” Mr. Sophal said.

“When the commune police chief fell to the ground, [Mr. Sothearith] kicked his neck and tried to shoot him to death, but the commune police officers convinced him not to. But the suspect did not listen and pointed his gun at the officers.”

Mr. Sophal said a group of military police officers soon arrived and shot Mr. Sothearith, once in the buttock and once in the left shoulder, before taking him into custody.

“He is a drug addict, and we found three small bags of methamphetamine with him,” he said.

Mr. Sophal said both injured men were sent to the emergency unit at Calmette Hospital, where Mr. Sam Ath remained as of Sunday.

“The suspect’s condition is better than the police chief’s; he was transferred from an emergency room to a normal [room] yesterday,” he said. “I asked him, ‘Why did you shoot the commune police chief?’ He said, ‘Because he pointed a gun at me.’”

Mr. Sophal said Mr. Sothearith would be sent to court to face charges once he had recovered.

Eng Sorphea, who heads the municipal police’s serious crimes bureau, said Mr. Sothearith was a first lieutenant and had been with the force since 2009.

“He had not committed any crime since he worked at the unit. He looked like a normal person,” he said.

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