(CNN) — At least 22 children were among dozens of people killed in a mass shooting at a child care center in northeastern Thailand on Thursday, officials in the country said.
Authorities immediately launched a manhunt for the suspected shooter, later identified by Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) as a 34-year-old former policeman.
Investigators later confirmed the suspect had killed his wife and child before taking his own life. It is unclear if the shooter and his family are included in the current death toll.
The mass shooting took place at the Child Development Center in Uthaisawan Na Klang district, Nong Bua Lamphu province, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.
“The prime minister has expressed his condolences on the shooting incident,” the statement read.
The suspect had been involved in an ongoing court case for allegedly selling drugs, according to Maj. Gen. Jirapob Puridet of the CIB.
He had appeared in court in Nong Bua Lamphu hours before traveling to the nursery and “opening fire while the kids were sleeping,” Puridet said.
Puridet told CNN the former officer was dismissed from duty and “charged with selling narcotics” last year.
Gun ownership in Thailand is relatively high compared with other countries in Southeast Asia.
Mass shootings in the country are rare but a 2020 incident saw a soldier kill 29 people in a shooting spree that began at a military site and then sent shoppers hunting for cover after the gunman entered a mall.
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