A dark turn in Beijing as U.S. Olympic coach's in-law slain
Two relatives of a U.S. volleyball coach are stabbed by a Chinese man, who then commits suicide. Their tour guide is also wounded in the attack at a city landmark.
BEIJING - In an incident that cast a shadow over the start of competition, a Chinese man with a knife attacked the parents of a former U.S. Olympic volleyball player and their Chinese tour guide Saturday, killing one of the Americans before committing suicide.
The victims were Todd and Barbara Bachman of Lakeville, Minn., the parents of Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman, who was a member of the 2004 Olympic team. She is married to Hugh McCutcheon, the current coach of the men's volleyball team.
Todd Bachman died of his wounds, and his wife was hospitalized in serious condition. The guide was also hospitalized.
The incident happened shortly after noon at the 13th Century Drum Tower, a landmark five miles from the Olympic village in a neighborhood of lakes, restaurants and bars popular with tourists. The attacker stabbed his victims and then jumped from the tower's second story, about 130 feet above street level, killing himself. He acted alone, the U.S. Olympic Committee added in a statement, quoting Beijing police.
The identity card of the Chinese man listed him as Tang Yongming, 47, from the eastern province of Zhejiang, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
"It's really sad after the celebration of the opening ceremonies, which were the best opening ceremonies I've ever been at," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "To the best of my knowledge this is a random action and not targeted at Americans. It's just that you don't expect something to happen in a country like this."
President George W. Bush, in China for the Olympics, was fully briefed on the incident, said Susan Stevenson, information officer at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Bush, speaking with reporters, said he and First Lady Laura Bush were saddened by the attack on the American family and their guide.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. And the United States government has offered to provide any assistance the family needs," he said
Shortly after the attack, an estimated 300 security officers, including black-clad commandos, arrived on the scene, according to two witnesses who declined to be identified, having been told by police not to speak to foreign reporters. The body was removed and the broken, bloodstained cobblestones were covered with sand.
The incident's timing and high-profile nature come at an awkward time. China has geared up its vast security apparatus, forced out thousands of critics from Beijing and spent record sums in a bid to pull off a perfect Olympics.
"This is a very unfortunate incident," said Jin Canrong, an international relations professor at People's University in Beijing. "The Chinese government will try not to let this event have a serious impact on U.S.-China relations."
USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said the victims were not credentialed to the team and wore nothing that identified them as Americans, adding that Chinese police have said they believe it was just a random act of violence. He added that members of the men's volleyball team are shocked but plan to compete Sunday as scheduled.
The U.S. Embassy's Stevenson said the fact that the assailant also attacked a Chinese tour guide should blunt any misperception that the attacker was anything other than a troubled person.
"I'm saddened, but that doesn't make me think any less of this country," said Sydney Thayer, director of a small New York-based film company and a veteran of nine Olympics, who was in the audience of the fencing competition Saturday. "My feeling is that this has nothing to do with China."
By late afternoon, new waves of tourists flocked to the Drum Tower area, largely unaware of what had taken place a few hours earlier. "Of course it's a little scary, but any time you have so many coming together there is a chance that something like this would happen," said Diego Mendoza, a 27-year-old doctoral student visiting from Canada. "I'm very surprised because all of the locals we have met say it's very safe."
Ryan Zweng, a 23-year-old San Francisco musician on his second visit to China, said the attack was at odds with his experience.
"China is the friendliest place for Americans that I've ever traveled. Period," he said. "Even after this, I still feel safer walking down the street in the middle of the night than I do in Philadelphia."
Magnier and Osnos are, respectively, the Beijing bureau chiefs of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. Randy Harvey and Diane Pucin of the Times' staff and Kevin Pang of the Tribune contributed to this report.
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