SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco police said Thursday that a man killed by a sergeant after intentionally crashing a car at the Chinese Consulate earlier this month was armed with a knife, and a crossbow and arrows, offering the first official details of the attack.
San Francisco Police Acting Commander Mark Im said at a virtual town hall that Zhanyuan Yang stood against a wall hiding a knife in his right hand. He said Yang then rotated toward a police sergeant and a security guard, exposing the knife, and made “multiple, rapid, downward swinging motions with the knife” in the direction of the sergeant and the security guard.
The sergeant then opened fire after Yang failed to comply with orders to get on the ground. Yang was taken to a hospital, where he died.
Yang, a 31-year-old San Francisco resident, rammed a car into the visa office of the consulate on Oct. 9. Investigators so far haven’t released a possible motive.
Several people called 911 Monday, saying that a driver had deliberately crashed into the consulate’s office, according to recordings played Thursday. One of the callers said the suspect had a gun, which dispatchers relayed to officers called to the scene.
Yang did not have a gun, police said.
Police body camera footage showed Yang leaning against a wall on his right side and rubbing his face with his left arm. Police said a security guard at the consulate had deployed pepper spray.
The police sergeant can be seen touching Yang’s back and asking “Does he have a gun?” before Yang turns around toward the officer and the security guard and starts swinging a knife. The footage shows the officer then opens fire and shortly after shouts, “You should have told me he had a knife!”
“A consulate is a place of safety and refuge where people should not have to worry about acts of violence,” said Capt. Jason Sawyer on Thursday. “This was a highly unusual event that could have easily involved many more casualties.”
Sergii Molchanov was in line waiting for his turn to submit his visa documents when he said the blue Honda sedan barreled in through the main doors at full speed, barely missing him.
Molchanov told The Associated Press that the car struck a wall and the driver was bleeding from his head as he got out of the car, yelling about the C.C.P., an abbreviation for the Chinese Communist Party. Police arrived less than a minute later, another witness, Tony Xin, told KTVU-TV.
The crash was condemned by the Chinese government and by the White House. It took place as San Francisco prepared to host next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a gathering of world leaders from Pacific Rim nations.
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.