BEIJING – An assailant stabbed to death the father-in-law of the head coach of the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team Saturday and wounded the mother-in-law and a tour guide before jumping to his own death, in a brutal act that darkened the mood in China just hours after the dazzling onset of the Summer Olympics.
The attack occurred shortly after noon along an upper walkway of the Drum Tower, an ancient landmark that looms over central Beijing.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said the couple, Todd and Barbara Bachman, and a daughter, Elisabeth, were not wearing clothing that would identify them as part of the U.S. Olympic delegation when they were accosted by “an assailant wielding a knife.”
Motives for the attack remained a mystery, and China’s tightly controlled state media made only cursory mention of the slaying. Chinese Internet users, some of them concerned that the assault would embarrass the nation during the Olympics, launched a “human search engine” to track down details of the killer and his family and expose them to humiliation and retaliation.
The state Xinhua News Agency identified the attacker by an identity card on his body, saying he was Tang Yongming, 47, from Hangzhou city in eastern China.
Tang acted alone, Xinhua said.
The agency said Tang had quit his job at a meter factory in Hangzhou, divorced his wife and vacated his house on Aug. 1.
“Tang has no criminal record. His neighbors said they hadn’t seen any abnormal behavior from him before he left Hangzhou,” a spokesman with the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Bureau told Xinhua.
In a brief statement, the U.S. Embassy described the assault as “a senseless act of violence” and said the assailant may have picked his victims at random.
“This appears to be an isolated act with no connection to the Olympics. We have no reason to believe that the assailant targeted the victims as American citizens,” the embassy said.
The attack devastated the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team, which plays its first match today. Elisabeth Bachman McCutcheon, the adult daughter who witnessed the attack but was not injured, is married to Hugh McCutcheon, the head coach of the men’s team. She was a member of the 2004 Olympic women’s indoor volleyball team.
Her mother and the unidentified female tour guide were taken to what is widely considered Beijing’s finest hospital, Peking Union Medical College Hospital.
Barbara Bachman’s injuries “are serious and life-threatening,” the USOC said.
President Bush, who is in Beijing with his father, wife and other members of an extended family to see the Olympics, was notified of the slaying and sent his condolences to the family through Ambassador Clark T. Randt, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said.
Buangan said embassy diplomats were “working very closely with Chinese authorities” in the investigation.