Chongqing authorities put up a reward of 500,000 yuan (HK$613,000) to track down a serial armed robber suspected of gunning down three people outside a bank in the southwestern municipality yesterday.
A woman was killed and a man severely injured after being shot in the neck in front of a Bank of China branch in Shapingba district at 9.30am. It is believed they were a couple and had just left the bank.
A bank security guard was shot in the arm while trying to chase the killer, who snatched the woman's handbag.
'The victims were lying on the street in blood,' Gong Xiaolu, 26, who lives nearby, said. 'I heard they withdrew only 20,000 yuan in cash. It was really scary.'
Police identified the suspect as 42-year-old Zhou Kehua, a Chongqing native. They said Zhou was believed to have killed and injured a dozen people in Hunan , Jiangsu and Chongqing since 2004, and to have robbed them of a huge amount of money.
Chongqing police said the suspect had fled on a motorcycle taxi, taking a big handbag the woman had been holding. They did not confirm the amount of money taken. Armed police sealed off all expressways leading out of the city and checked each car as they searched for the suspect.
A similar armed robbery in Jiangsu's capital, Nanjing , in January, saw one man gunned down just after withdrawing 200,000 yuan. Despite a 2.5 million yuan reward offered by Nanjing authorities, the suspect was ever identified and no arrest made.
The similarity of photos provided by the Nanjing and Chongqing governments and other similarities - including the suspect's age, body type and strong Sichuan accent - prompted suspicions online that the suspects were the same person.
'The 'headshot brother' has re-emerged, be careful when you go to a bank,' said one microblogger, referring to the armed robber's habit of shooting victims in the head.
Some Chongqing residents commented ironically on microblogging websites, lamenting worsening public safety in the city once famous for its anti-crime campaign, led by disgraced former party chief Bo Xilai and former police chief Wang Lijun. One microblogger wrote: 'I don't care about politics. We Chongqing people only know that after they were gone, gangsters started coming back and the city is no longer safe.'