The superiors of a police officer who shot dead two villagers in an ethnic minority area of Guizhou last week have insisted that he acted in self-defence. The incident has become a major talking point on the mainland, and the lawyer representing the families of the dead has said the officer should face criminal charges. Ran Taiyou, deputy head of Anshun Public Security Bureau, said the two villagers - cousins Guo Yongzhi and Guo Yonghua - 'were in a state of excitement and had tried to grab [the officer's] gun without listening to any persuasion'. He said the villagers were shot when they fought with the officer. Zhang Lei, deputy head of Pogong township police in Guanling Miao Autonomous County, was trying to mediate a dispute between the Guos and another family last Tuesday. Ran admitted that Zhang had shot five times. Two were warning shots, one was at Guo Yonghua's head and the other two were at Guo Yongzhi. Ran said blood tests showed the cousins were very drunk, while Zhang was sober. It is the second time that police in Anshun, the city that administers the county, have defended Zhang. The case has prompted criticism and speculation among internet users and in the media, with serious doubts being expressed over the police account of events. Ran yesterday declined to comment on why Guo Yongzhi had been shot twice, in his right leg and head. A mainland journalist said Ran refused to answer almost all questions, giving mostly one reply: 'We are still investigating the case.' Xu Jianguo, a Beijing-based lawyer representing family members of the cousins, who were in their late thirties and early forties, said the critical point of the case was that two shots had been fired at Guo Yongzhi, which should indicate manslaughter. 'If the first shot to Guo Yongzhi's right leg incapacitated him, it was not necessary to shoot him the second time, in the head,' he said. Xu said he had urged provincial police to move the case away from Anshun, as Zhang and other people involved with the alleged unlawful discharge of the weapon should face criminal charges. Anshun police said Zhang was suspended immediately after the incident and was under internal investigation, which was being monitored by a senior officer from the Ministry of Public Security. But Xu said local police gave the family members no further details of the investigation and they did not know when an outcome would be decided. The lawyer said the two families were each promised 350,000 yuan (HK$398,000) in compensation last week. 'But the compensation is not related to the investigation into Zhang, who should be charged with intentional killing if there is sufficient evidence. We are waiting,' he added.