An American man who went on the run with his wife and an associate after their alleged violent escape from a Thai courtroom were arrested Wednesday after a shootout with authorities, according to reports.
An assistant to the national police chief told AFP that the man shot his wife and then himself before they were apprehended. Both were critically injured, he said. The couple’s associate was arrested separately, AFP reported.
Authorities tracked down the couple in Sa Kaeo province, near the border with Cambodia. They had been on the run since allegedly shooting and stabbing their way out of a courtroom in Pattaya where they were facing the death penalty for drug charges, according to prison officials.
Corrections Department Director-General Naras Savestana said that the three, who were shackled, escaped while being moved from a holding area to a courtroom.
CCTV footage showed one stabbing a guard who tried to stop them and another forcing a guard at gunpoint to hand over keys to unlock a secured area so they could make their escape in a nearby pickup truck.
Thai media reported Tuesday that the injured guard was recovering in a hospital. The Bangkok Post reported that the pickup truck had been found abandoned in a nearby district and two people suspected of aiding the escape had been arrested.
The Correction Department statement identified the American as 40-year-old Bart Allen Helmus, who is believed to be the person who stabbed the guard. The two others were his Thai wife, Sirinapa Wisetrit, and a Thai male named Noi. All had been charged with possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell.
Helmus and his wife were arrested in July after what was reported at the time to be a sting operation in which a police undercover agent bought 10 grams of crystal methamphetamine from them. Police said they seized around 2.2 pounds of the drug from them, a gun with 200 bullets and the equivalent of $6,800 in cash.
The three fugitives will be interrogated in Sa Kaeo before they are returned to Pattaya, the Bangkok Post reported. An investigation into how they obtained their weapons used in the escape is ongoing.
Pattaya is a popular tourist destination but is also infamous for vice and crime, attracting more than its share of foreign criminals.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.