A knife-wielding gatekeeper at a Beijing kindergarten slashed 15 young children Wednesday morning, killing one child and injuring three teachers before he was subdued by police, authorities said.
One of the children and a teacher sustained serious head and neck wounds and were still in critical condition at press time, officials said.
The other victims are in stable condition.
The incident occurred at about 9:30 AM when the kids were playing in the kindergarten schoolyard.
The school's cook told officials she heard children screaming and rushed outside, where she saw the gatekeeper slashing at children with a kitchen knife.
Kindergarten children are normally aged 3 to 6, but some younger children were at the facility.
An iron door had apparently been locked by the gatekeeper before the attack and the children had no escape route.
In an effort to protect the children -- four teachers, including the kindergarten's leader -- fought to try to wrest the knife from the suspect.
Two police vehicles and eight police officers rushed to the kindergarten of the No. 1 Hospital Affiliated with Peking University in downtown Beijing after the incident was reported and quickly overpowered the man.
"It was a miserable scene," said Wang Bin, director of the hospital's security department. "There was fresh blood everywhere, on the faces of the children, on the white working clothes of the teachers and on the floor."
A total of 23 children and five staff were in the kindergarten on Wednesday. Fifteen children and three teachers were stabbed.
Eight children, the head of the kindergarten and the school's cook emerged unscathed.
The kindergarten normally has 40 children in attendance, but some of them stayed at home because of summer vacation.
Suspect in custody
Xu Heping, 52, a Beijing native, has been working as a temporary gatekeeper for two years in the kindergarten and had never shown any sign of any mental disorder, according to school staffers.
"Nothing was abnormal this morning," said Wang, citing the account of the head of the kindergarten.
Xu delivered the newspaper to the school head's office as he does every morning shortly before the stabbing and even asked her if anything else he could do.
However, a milk delivery man surnamed Yuan said Xu looked very unhappy when Yuan delivered the milk to the kindergarten Wednesday morning, according to China News Service.
He said the door was locked, which was quite unusual, and Xu didn't answer the door for quite a long time.
A witness identified as Chang said the attacker said "I can't move now" after he was subdued by officers. Chang said he was surprised that the injured children -- likely still in shock -- were not crying when the doctors and police were readying them for transport to hospital.
According to Chang, the suspect Xu's clothes still appeared clean and he did not appear nervous at all.
A preliminary investigation by Beijing police indicated Xu had received medical treatment for four months in 1999 at Beijing Anding Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. Doctors at the hospital confirmed that Xu was diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
Suspect feared job loss?
Police Wednesday would not reveal whether the suspect revealed any motive, and said the incident remains under investigation. Officials revealed the kindergarten is set to close in early September, and some people said they believed that Xu, a temporary hire, may have been upset because of uncertainties about his future.
The injured were taken to the No. 1 Hospital Affiliated with Peking University. Most of the young victims have head and neck wounds, doctors said. The most seriously wounded were attended to first, with doctors unable to comment, saying they were too busy to tending to the wounded. Thirteen of the 15 young victims are children of hospital staffers.
"Two doctors burst into tears and ran out of the room immediately when were told the news," a witness in her 50s said. Parents were gathering at the fourth floor of the building of the mother's and infant's section of the hospital, weeping.
"Because of the profession, doctors can't stay at home and take care of the children during the summer vacation," said one physician, who declined to give her name. "My parents have been visiting me for several days and babysitting my child. Otherwise, my kid would have been in the kindergarten, too."
Another doctor said he was blessed since his child was among the eight uninjured students.
Other patients were also shocked to hear the news. "It is so scary and horrible," said Li, in his 30s, who had brought in his 4-year-old to see the doctor Wednesday. He said he can't imagine victims his daughter's age.
"(The attacker) must be a maniac. A rational person would never attack young kids," he said.
"We should not have to lose one more child to the dangers of untreated mental illness," a taxi driver said. "Organizations have to study thoroughly the profiles of the employees to prevent future violent tragedies."
(China Daily August 5, 2004)