Death toll rises in China tractor rampage
n this photo taken Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010, a policeman walks near a smashed car and shop at Yuanshi county, in north China's Hebei province. (AP Photo)
The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, August 3, 2010 9:54PM EDT
YUANSHI COUNTY, China - Determined to end the drunken driver's homicidal rampage, 20-year-old Wang Xiaobo clung to the side of the earthmover as it scraped vehicles smashed earlier by its massive shovel. Seconds earlier, he had leaped aboard the vehicle after it became entangled in the trees where he had hidden.
"(The driver) started trying to hit me with a brick and a crowbar, but I ducked and jumped down a step. Then he kept trying to scrape me off the tractor so I reached up and stabbed him a couple times," said Wang, his back was still scratched and swollen from the ordeal.
With his knife attack, Wang had helped slow down the Sunday afternoon rampage as the heavily bleeding and drunken Li Xianliang was finally subdued after he pulled into the coal depot where he worked. The depot had been the place where Li had begun his murderous spree by killing his employer.
On Tuesday, residents of rural Yuanshi county in northern China's Hebei province were mourning the 17 people Li had killed and wondering what could have sparked Sunday's seemingly random attack, the latest in a string of grisly mass killings across China.
At the home of villager Liu Binfeng, the bodies of his 34-year-old wife and young daughter were laid out in coffins according to custom.
"We didn't know him. We don't know why he did it. It is just like some natural disaster that came along," said Liu, whose other daughter survived the attack. "This is a completely unthinkable thing. I don't know what to do. My family is completely wrecked."
Villagers said Li had money problems and killed his boss after the two men argued over money while drinking.
Apparently picking his victims at random, Li smashed his way down a tree-lined road, running over motorcycles and small cars and ripping into buses. At times, he stopped to flip the vehicles with his shovel before crushing them under his wheels, residents said, adding that the youngest victim was 5 years old.
After returning to the depot, Li brandished his crowbar but was overcome when villager Wang Xinjiang kicked him in the groin and pinned him to the ground.
"He came down (from the vehicle) and said 'I'm a dead man anyway! I'm dead anyway,"' said Wang, a former soldier.
Li was taken into custody and almost certainly faces the death penalty for murder. Calls to local government officials, who on Monday put the death toll at 11, rang unanswered on Tuesday.
Evidence of the severity of the violence was scattered across Yuanshi on Tuesday. Mangled parts of motorcycles and cars sat along the road and smashed buildings stood in ruins. Li's earthmover sat in the depot, blood splattered across its seat, steering wheel and dashboard.
A series of apparently unrelated rampage attacks across China in recent months have killed dozens of people and wounded wounded, prompting calls to diagnose and treat serious mental illnesses and igniting fears over the nation's emotional health.
Assailants, most of them wielding knives, have targeted kindergartens and elementary schools, a courthouse, and random victims at markets and on a train.
Authorities have responded with increased security at schools and orders to limit media coverage of the attacks to discourage copycats.