Father of former Olympian killed in Beijing

Society Materials 10 August 2008 11:56 (UTC +04:00)

Police tightened security Sunday and resumed investigating the fatal stabbing of the father of a former Olympian, an attack that stunned the athletic community and embarrassed Chinese authorities determined to hold the most successful Summer Games ever, the AP reported.

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 on Saturday. The assault came only hours after the spectacular opening ceremony for the games.

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.

The committee said Sunday that Mrs. Bachman suffered multiple lacerations and stab wounds. She underwent eight hours of surgery and was in critical but stable condition. The statement said family members were at the hospital and that McCutcheon would "not be on the bench today" for the U.S. men's volleyball team's opening game against Venezuela.

Rob Browning, team leader of the men's volleyball team, said the team was united in supporting the Bachmans.

"We are absolutely devastated by what has occurred, for their loss and for everything they are going through," Browning said. "We are a family, and we'll get through this together as a family."

U.S. President George W. Bush, in the Chinese capital to attend some Olympic events and meet with Chinese leaders, thanked the communist regime Sunday for its handling of the attack.

"Your government has been very attentive, very sympathetic, and I appreciate that a lot," Bush told Chinese President Hu Jintao before they met for private talks at the presidential compound.

Hu said his government took the incident "very seriously" and pledged to keep Washington apprised of the investigation.

Elisabeth Bachman was with her parents 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.

Shortly after the attack, 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.

Dale Bachman, Todd's second cousin, told a news conference in Minneapolis that the next 24 hours would be critical for Mrs. Bachman. He said two of Todd and Barbara Bachman's other adult daughters were flying to China to be with their mother and Elisabeth.

He said Todd Bachman was walking a few steps behind his wife and daughter at a Beijing tourist site when he was attacked by a knife-wielding stranger. Barbara Bachman heard the commotion and turned to help her husband.

"That's when she was attacked," Dale Bachman said. "To me, that was a strong indication of her love. She is a fabulous person."

The midday attack sent shock waves through the games precinct after the Olympics' spectacular opening ceremony had set an ebullient tone.

U.S. Olympic officials met with the women's beach volleyball players and warned them about going out, reminding them that if they must, they should avoid advertising themselves as Americans.

"I told my family that there's no need for that," said beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh. "We have our patriotism (inside) our hearts."

Walsh has known Elisabeth Bachman since they were 13, playing with her in junior volleyball and against her in college.

"It's overwhelmingly sad," Walsh said. "All of our hearts are heavy."

There was no indication that the assailant knew that his victims had any connection to the games, according to Olympic and Chinese authorities. 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 Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei visited the Bachmans in the hospital.

Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said Sunday that security in and around the Olympic venues was already sufficient but security would be increased at scenic spots around the city.

He said Chinese investigators and U.S. Embassy officials believe Saturday's attack was "an isolated incident" and suggested that such random acts are difficult to prevent.

" Beijing is a safe city, but unfortunately we are not immune to violent acts," Wang said at daily media briefing.

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

An initial investigation showed that Tang had no fixed residence or job in Hangzhou when he came to Beijing on Aug. 1, a spokesman with the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau told Xinhua. Zhejiang police told the official state-run agency that Tang had worked for a factory in Hangzhou, but had resigned.

He and his wife divorced in 2006. He sold his apartment the same year and had lived in a rented house ever since.

"Tang has no criminal record. His neighbors said they hadn't seen any abnormal behavior from him before left Hangzhou," a spokesman with the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Bureau said. His name was not used, as is customary.

The spokesman said Tang was not a petitioner - disgruntled workers who travel to the Chinese capital seeking redress for various grievances - or at least had not submitted any complaint to government officials.

But a Hong Kong human rights group said Tang had tried to file a grievance with the central government, though the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy didn't know what those complaints were about.

He vacated his rented house on Aug. 1, saying he planned to move elsewhere to do business, the public security bureau spokesman told Xinhua, but Tang didn't specify where he would go or what business he intended to do.

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."

There are few attacks on foreigners in China. 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.