A Thai police officer, dubbed “Jo Ferrari” for his vast collection of cars, has been charged with murder after a video of him allegedly torturing and killing a suspected drug dealer went viral.
Colonel Thitisan Utthanaphon and six other officers face charges of extortion, dereliction of duty and confining a person against their will for the 5 August incident at their police station, said Ittiporn Kaewtip, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.
The attorney general must now decide whether to send the case to court.
The suspects, who also include a police major, captain and lieutenant, could face the death penalty if convicted.
Col Utthanaphon turned himself in after a nationwide manhunt and was given the unusual opportunity to address reporters and answer their questions by telephone in a news conference called by police.
He insisted he was attempting to get information from the drug dealer about where he had stashed his main supply of methamphetamine.
“Since I’ve been in the police I have never been involved in corruption,” the colonel said.
“I did not have any intention to kill him. I just wanted to do my work.”
Warrants were issued for the arrest of the seven officers for murder after a video emerged of a man suffocating after plastic bags were put over his head.
The group were allegedly trying to extort two million Thai baht (£44,399) from the man.
The case caused public uproar after video was shared on social media, and appeared to show Thitisan directing a deadly assault on the suspect.
The suspect was thrown to the floor by officers who put more bags on his head. One of them appears to briefly kneel on the man, identified by Thai media as 24-year-old Jeerapong Thanapat, who then goes limp.
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Allegations of police brutality and corruption are widespread in Thailand, and international rights groups called for the officers involved to be held accountable.
The video was posted by a well-known attorney, Decha Kittiwittayanan, who said he had received a complaint from a junior police officer.
The complaint alleged that the police had demanded 1 million baht (£22,000) from the 24-year-old man who was killed and his female companion, who had been picked up with more than 100,000 methamphetamine tablets.
After they agreed to pay, Thitisan allegedly demanded double that amount and ordered his subordinates to cover the male suspect’s head with a plastic bag and beat him until he agreed.
When the suspect died, Thitisan allegedly ordered his men to take the body to the hospital and tell the doctor the death was caused by a drug overdose.
The woman was released but told not to say anything about it, while Thitisan allegedly paid the victim’s father to remain silent.
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