CRIME

Eye-witnesses express outrage after truck-driving protester shot dead by SWAT team

Yunnan police say officers had no choice but to shoot suspect; witnesses say he was no threat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 May, 2014, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 May, 2014, 7:38pm

A man driving a truck who was reportedly upset about land compensation was shot dead by a SWAT team outside a local government building last week, mainland media have reported.

Three pedestrians were hit by the vehicle during the incident in Zhenxiong county, The Beijing News reported.

But witnesses said the truck ran out of control only after police shot the driver. Police maintain officers followed the law and handled the situation correctly. They fired four times, two of them warning shots, using 12 bullets in total, police said.

More than 100 people have signed a letter saying the man "did not threaten public safety".

The victim was identified as Fang Jiushu. He and his brother, Fang Jiucheng, drove a truck carrying banners, accusing authorities of being unjust, to local government offices on Thursday. They wanted to speak with the office chief over compensation tied to construction of an electricity grid on family land.

They brothers had been jailed briefly in 2012 for starting a fight after blocking the project, Fang's wife told the News. They were able to meet some officials but not the office chief, and when staff asked them to leave, they refused.

He did wave [the knife] at the police but didn't hurt anyone
Witness Guan Yuchun

Police arrived, and two officers handcuffed Fang Jiucheng and put him in their vehicle, a security guard, Chen Shoukui, said.

His brother then jumped into the truck, and waved a 50cm-long knife when police approached him, but he put the weapon away, another witness said. "He did wave it at the police but didn't hurt anyone," the witness, Guan Yuchun, said. "No one was hurt."

He started the truck, and after a few seconds, the crowd heard gunshots. "He was driving slowly, slower than people walk," Guan said. "But I saw a plain-clothes officer fire his gun towards the sky."

According to county government spokesman Xiong Tao, police fired fired a warning shot, then shot the truck's tyres, followed by another warning shot, then they shot Fang.

Guan said an officer grabbed a chair to break the truck window and fired three shots inside.

Locals said three people were injured by the truck after Fang was shot and lost control of the vehicle. But the police report stated the injuries occurred before police arrived.

In a statement issued last night, local police said Fang Jiushu attacked an officer who tried to stop him from starting the truck and reached for a knife. The officer first fired a warning shot, and Fang then drove towards the crowd, it said.

Xiong said police had acted correctly. "Some argue the situation was not that dangerous, but this is not entirely objective. Police with professional training have a more complete judgment of the situation."