Father of former Olympian killed in Beijing

Aug. 10, 2008, 9:43 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Police tightened security Sunday as they investigated the fatal stabbing of the father of a former U.S. Olympian, an attack that stunned the athletic community and embarrassed Chinese authorities determined to hold the most successful Summer Games ever.

Todd and Barbara Bachman of Lakeville, Minnesota - parents of 2004 volleyball Olympian Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman and in-laws of U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon - were attacked by a Chinese man while visiting the 13th-century Drum Tower on Saturday. The assault came only hours after the spectacular opening ceremony for the games.

The U.S. Olympic Committee confirmed Bachman died from knife wounds and Barbara Bachman suffered life-threatening injuries. She and their Chinese tour guide, who was also injured in the attack, were being treated in a Beijing hospital.

The committee said Sunday that Mrs. Bachman suffered multiple lacerations and stab wounds. She underwent eight hours of surgery and was in critical but stable condition.

Rob Browning, leader of the men's volleyball team, said the team was united in supporting the Bachmans.

"We are absolutely devastated by what has occurred, for their loss and for everything they are going through," Browning said. "We are a family, and we'll get through this together as a family."

U.S. President George W. Bush, in the Chinese capital to attend some Olympic events and meet with Chinese leaders, thanked President Hu Jintao on Sunday for his government's handling of the attack.

"Your government has been very attentive, very sympathetic, and I appreciate that a lot," Bush said.

Hu said his government took the incident "very seriously" and pledged to keep Washington apprised of the investigation.

Elisabeth Bachman was with her parents at the time of the attack, but was uninjured. Her father was chief executive officer for Bachman's, Inc., a home-and-garden center based in Minneapolis.

Shortly after the attack, the assailant, Tang Yongming, 47, leapt to his death from a balcony on the Drum Tower, just five miles (eight kilometers) from the main Olympics site, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Police in Tang's home town of Hangzhou said Sunday the attack was motivated by despair over family problems, Xinhua said.

The Drum Tower is one of the few ancient structures in fast-developing Beijing. Drummers pounded their massive instruments on the hour to let people in the imperial city know the time.

It was closed to tourists Sunday, a note at the ticket booth asking for visitors' understanding. Someone had left a bouquet of yellow and white lilies and chrysanthemums at the entrance, flowers of mourning in China.

The midday attack Saturday sent shock waves through the games precinct after Friday night's spectacular opening ceremony had set an ebullient tone.

There was no indication the assailant knew his victims had any connection to the games, according to Olympic and Chinese authorities.

Violent crime against foreigners is rare in tightly controlled China, and the assault occurred despite major security measures that have blanketed the capital city during the Olympics. A 100,000-strong security force plus countless volunteers have been deployed to protect against any trouble.

Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, said Sunday that security in and around Olympic venues was already sufficient but would be increased at scenic spots around the city.

He said Chinese investigators and U.S. Embassy officials believe Saturday's attack was "an isolated incident" and suggested such random acts are difficult to prevent.

"Beijing is a safe city, but unfortunately we are not immune to violent acts," Wang told reporters.

Interpol said initial investigations found nothing indicating the murder was linked to terrorism or organized crime.

An initial investigation showed that Tang had no job in Hangzhou when he came to Beijing on Aug. 1, a spokesman with the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau told Xinhua. Zhejiang police said Tang had worked for a factory in Hangzhou, but had resigned, Xinhua said.

Police said Tang went through his second divorce in 2006 and grew increasingly despondent when his 21-year-old son started getting into trouble, Xinhua reported. The son was detained in May 2007 on suspicion of fraud, then received a suspended prison sentence in March this year for theft.

Tang sold his apartment in Hangzhou in 2006 for the equivalent of US$30,000 and moved into a rented house, but the son frittered away the profit from the sale, Xinhua cited police as saying.

On Aug. 1, Tang called his son and told him he was leaving Hangzhou to try to make a living somewhere else, and pleaded with him to say out of trouble, it said.

"Tang has no criminal record. His neighbors said they hadn't seen any abnormal behavior from him before he left Hangzhou," Xinhua quoted a spokesman for the Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Bureau as saying. His name was not used, as is customary.


Associated Press writers Paul Alexander, Jimmy Golen, Audra Ang and Charles Hutzler contributed to this story.