PHUKET: About 10 shots were fired when two policemen posing as staff confronted an armed bandit in the midst of a Phuket 7-Eleven heist last night.
In the dramatic shootout the robber, told by officers to drop his gun, started firing in the convenience store near the Heroines Monument in central Phuket.
In response, the officers dodged and dived under the hail of bullets. A police shot plugged the bandit in the groin. He limped to his escape vehicle - a car not a motorcycle - and police nabbed him there.
The man has since admitted to being the gunman who had previously pulled four 7-Eleven store holdups in quick succession.
In the car, parked near the 7-Eleven in Thepkasattri Road, police say they found a full-face motorcycle helmet.
The bandit wore the helmet in the first four raids but had decided to raid the store about 11.10pm last night without wearing one, officers said today, because of bravado.
According to police, Pisiya Tangbanjerd, 41, told them he enjoyed watching movies about armed bandits and wanted to become one. He worked as a private detective.
He was also a Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation volunteer at Phuket City Council. Police found a walkie-talkie in his car and took possession of an illegal Smith and Wesson handgun.
Having the walkie-talkie enabled him to listen in on police in pursuit after his four earlier 7-Eleven robberies. He wore the full-face helmet to fool police and drove away in the car while officers were hunting a motorcycle.
Phuket's new police commander, Major General Pachara Boonyasit, explained that police reacted to the series of 7-Eleven robberies with a meeting of all senior officers yesterday.
''The coordinated response was to have police posing as staff at 7-Eleven stores across Phuket from 8pm to 8am, with two officers in high-risk stores and a single officer at low-risk outlets,'' the major general said.
''That's how we were ready and waiting for the bandit's fifth holdup attempt.''
At the Thalang store last night when the bandit walked in were Lieutenant Winit Cheblem and Lieutenant Pannawat Sudkongtong, of Thalang Police Station.
When they saw the shopper was armed, Lt Winit called out: ''Drop your weapon, we are police!''
The bandit opened fire and Lt Winit dived for cover. His partner, Lt Pannawat, opened fire, aiming for the man's legs but inflicting a wound to the groin.
By the time the bandit limped to the car and collapsed, the police had their man. Phuket's serial 7-Eleven bandit had met his match.
The bandit was treated at Thalang Hospital then transferred to the better-equipped Vachira Phuket Hospital in Phuket City, where he was under guard today and being prepared for surgery.
The store, with shattered glass everywhere from at least 10 shots, is expected to be restored from a crime scene to a shopping outlet later today.