Relative of US Olympic coach killed in Beijing

August 9, 2008 8:17:15 PM PDT
The fatal stabbing of the father of a former Olympian at a Beijing landmark cast a sad shadow over the first full day of Olympic competition Saturday, just hours after China's jubilant opening of the Summer Games. Todd and Barbara Bachman of Lakeville, Minn. - parents of 2004 volleyball Olympian Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman and in-laws of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon - were attacked by a Chinese man while visiting the 13th-century Drum Tower.

The U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed Bachman died from knife wounds and that Barbara Bachman suffered life-threatening injuries.

She and their Chinese tour guide, who was also injured in the attack, were being treated in a Beijing hospital.

Elisabeth Bachman was with them at the time of the attack, but uninjured. Her father was chief executive officer for Bachman's, Inc., a home-and-garden center based in Minneapolis.

The assailant, Tang Yongming, 47, leapt to his death from a 130-foot high balcony on the Drum Tower, just five miles from the main Olympics site, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Relatives said Barbara Bachman had undergone surgery and was in intensive care at a Beijing hospital.

"The next 24 hours will be critical," said Dale Bachman, Todd's second cousin.

Two of Todd and Barbara Bachman's other adult daughters were flying to China to be with their mother and Elisabeth, Dale Bachman said at a news conference in Minneapolis.

According to Dale Bachman, Todd Bachman was walking a few steps crying.

"It's just tragic," said U.S. woman's basketball coach Anne Donovan. "I don't know if there's another word for it. We said a prayer for them in the locker room. I get goosebumps talking about it. It's something obviously that just changes the events right now for the Olympic Games."

Violent crime against foreigners is rare in tightly controlled China, and the assault at the Drum Tower occurred despite major security measures that have blanketed the capital city during the Olympics: A 100,000-strong security force plus countless volunteer guards have been deployed to protect against any trouble.

Beijing's Communist leaders are hypersensitive about anything that could take the shine off the games. China's Foreign Ministry said it had no immediate comment on the attack.

Interpol said initial investigations found nothing indicating the murder was linked to terrorism or organized crime.

"So far, our database check and preliminary analysis suggest that today's murder-suicide was an isolated, though brutal, murder of one person and assault on two others," said Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble.

Tang's name was run through computers containing more than 178,000 individuals, including 12,000 suspected terrorists, and came up blank. But Noble noted that the investigation was not complete.

Interpol said Tang had apparently recently divorced and had not been seen by relatives for two months.

U.S. Ambassador Clark T. Randt visited the victims in hospital, and the embassy issued a statement later that said the attack "appears to be a senseless act of violence."

"We don't believe this was targeted at American citizens, and we don't believe this has anything to do with the Olympics," embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said.

Attacks on foreigners in China are extremely rare. A Canadian model was murdered last month in Shanghai - police said she stumbled onto a burglary. In March, a screaming, bomb-strapped hostage-taker who commandeered a bus with 10 Australians aboard in the popular tourist city of Xi'an was shot dead by a police sniper.

Shanghai and Beijing are still safer than most cities of their size. Punishments for crimes against foreigners are heavier than for crimes against Chinese, and police-linked neighborhood watch groups are highly vigilant. Chinese are not allowed to own guns. Still, the U.S. government has warned Americans against muggings, beatings and even carjackings, especially in the nightlife and shopping districts of large cities.

The Drum Tower is one of few ancient structures still in fast-developing Beijing. Long ago, drummers pounded their massive instruments on the hour to let people in the imperial city know the time. It is located on an important central axis of the city, to the north of the Forbidden City, which was home to the emperor.


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