SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The White House on Tuesday condemned a violent crash at the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco where a man rammed a car into the lobby, creating a chaotic scene that ended with police shooting the driver, who later died at the hospital.
“We condemn this incident and all violence perpetrated against foreign diplomatic staff working in the United States,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
U.S. government officials have been in contact with Chinese foreign ministry officials in the aftermath of the incident Monday, according to a White House official who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The White House official added that investigators believe the driver was “acting with malign intent.”
As of Tuesday morning, police had shared no additional details on the identity of the driver or how the incident unfolded. San Francisco police said Monday they didn’t know why the unidentified driver smashed through the front of the consulate, located in a residential neighborhood and next to a major street. In a statement, the Chinese Consulate general described it as a “violent attack.”
Police descended on the consulate shortly after 3 p.m. Monday in response to a report of a vehicle crashing into the building and urged people to avoid the area. Video from the scene showed a blue Honda sedan inside the lobby of the consulate’s visa office and people running to exit the building.
Officers entered the building, made contact with the suspect and opened fire, San Francisco police Sgt. Kathryn Winters said during a brief news conference. Despite “life-saving efforts” the suspect died at a hospital.
Police did not describe how the shooting unfolded, how many officers fired, or if the driver had a weapon. There were no reports of any injured people inside the building.
A witness who was inside the consulate said the man drove right through the front of the building, then got out of the car and was bleeding and holding knives. He then began arguing with security guards.
Tony Xin told KTVU-TV that he saw the driver had blood on his head and was holding two knives. Xin saw a security guard trying to detain the driver before he ran out of the building through the damaged doorway.
“I heard a really loud bang. I thought it was gunshots. I looked to the left and there was smoke,” Xin said. “I turned back and saw the guy take out a crossbow.”
Xin said less than a minute after the driver got out of the car, five police officers arrived, initially with their guns drawn and rushed into the building. He said they were later joined by more officers.
Another witness, Sergii Molchanov, told several news outlets the driver was shouting about where to find the C.C.P., an abbreviation for the Chinese Communist Party. He said the man appeared to be grabbing something from his car before the confrontation with police happened.
Police are working and coordinating with investigators from the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Consulate. The incident comes as San Francisco is preparing to host next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a gathering of world leaders from Pacific Rim nations. President Joe Biden plans to attend but it’s not clear if Chinese President Xi Jinping will come.
The statement from the Chinese Consulate general demanded more details about what happened and asked that it be “dealt with seriously in accordance with the law.”
“Our embassy severely condemns this violent attack,” the statement said.
Consulates typically have some type of security, such as locally hired guards. Neither the consulate nor San Francisco police immediately responded to questions about what security was in place at the facility.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin again called for an investigation at a daily briefing Tuesday without giving any details about damage to the consulate or injuries to staff and visitors.
“We strongly urge the U.S. to launch a swift investigation and take effective measures to ensure the safety of Chinese diplomatic missions and personnel there in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations,” Wang said, referring to the 1961 agreement governing relations between countries.
The San Francisco consulate has been targeted a number of times before. Among the most serious was a fire set by a Chinese man on New Year’s Day 2014 at the main entrance. It charred a section of the outside of the building.
The man, who was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, told authorities he was driven by voices he was hearing. He was sentenced to nearly three years in prison.