The victims of a deadly stabbing attack at a tourist site in Beijing on the first day of the Olympic Games were the in-laws of the U.S. men’s volleyball coach, the U.S Olympic Committee said Saturday.
The committee said Todd Bachman of Lakeville, Minn., the father of former U.S. Olympian Elisabeth Bachman, was killed. His wife, Barbara, suffered “serious and life-threatening” injuries and was transported to a local hospital for emergency treatment.
Personnel from the USOC and the United States Embassy were assisting the Bachman family at the hospital, the committee said.
Todd Bachman was president and CEO of Bachman’s Inc., a Minneapolis-area garden center chain founded by his great-grandfather, Henry Bachman Sr., in 1885.
Their daughter, Elisabeth Bachman, a member of the 2004 U.S. women’s volleyball team, is married to U.S. men’s volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. She was present during the attack but was not injured, according to the USOC.
The man committed suicide by throwing himself from the second story of the site, the 13th century Drum Tower, just five miles from the main Olympics site.
The brutal attack shortly after midday was all the more shocking because of the rarity of violent crime against foreigners in tightly controlled China, which has ramped up security measures even more for the Olympics.
The stabbing came only hours after what by many accounts was the most spectacular opening ceremony in Olympic history and it has already dampened some of the enthusiasm.
“They are deeply saddened and shocked,” Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said of the volleyball team.
“It is impossible to describe the depth of our sadness and shock in this tragic hour,” said USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth. “Our delegation comes to the Games as a family, and when one member of our family suffers a loss, we all grieve with them. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with the Bachman and McCutcheon families.”
The official Xinhua News Agency identified the attacker as Tang Yongming, 47, from the eastern city of Hangzhou. It said Tang attacked the two Americans and their Chinese tour guide, who was also injured, at 12:20 p.m. on the second level of the ancient tower, then leapt to his death immediately afterward. The second level of the tower is about 130 feet high.
Seibel said the two Americans who were attacked were not wearing anything that would have identified them as Americans or part of the U.S. team.
“They were not wearing apparel or anything that would have specifically identified them as being members of our delegation” or as Americans, he told The Associated Press.
He said it is “too early to say” whether the U.S. delegation or athletes will require additional security.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said it was aware of an incident involving two Americans and was working with Chinese authorities to find out more. He said U.S. officials were in contact with relatives of the two Americans who are in Beijing.
“Out of respect for the families involved, we can’t say more than that,” Don Q. Washington, another embassy spokesman, told reporters.
The White House said President Bush, who is in Beijing for the opening days of the Games, was informed of the incident.
“Laura and I were also saddened by the attack on an American family and their Chinese tour guide today in Beijing. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. And the United States government has offered to provide any assistance the family needs.”
A USA basketball spokesman told ESPN.com that the U.S. men’s basketball team was briefed on the attack by its director of security, Bernie Tolbert, and by the assistant executive director of men’s basketball programs, Sean Ford. The team had no further comment.
Police blocked off streets leading to the Drum Tower immediately after the attack and cordoned off the area with yellow police tape. Security officers were examining the scene on the tower and below.
Attacks on foreigners in China are extremely rare. A Canadian model was murdered last month in Shanghai, but police said that was because she stumbled onto a burglary.
In March, a screaming, bomb-strapped hostage-taker who commandeered a bus with 10 Australians aboard in the popular tourist city of Xi’an was shot to death by a police sniper.
Shanghai and Beijing are still safer than most foreign cities of their size. Punishments for crimes against foreigners are heavier than for crimes against Chinese, and police-linked neighborhood watch groups are highly vigilant. Chinese are not allowed to own guns.
Even so, the U.S. government now warns Americans against muggings, beatings and even carjackings, especially in the nightlife and shopping districts of large cities.
Built in the 13th century, the Drum Tower is one of the few ancient structures still in Beijing, and was used to tell time in imperial China for the city, using drummers who pounded their instruments to mark the hours. It is located on an important central axis of the city, to the north of the Forbidden City, the former home of the emperor.
International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said in a statement that the committee had received reports of the attack and was in contact with Beijing Games organizers “to find out full details, and are ready to provide whatever assistance we can.”