The suspect in a knife attack on 23 elementary school children in Central China's Henan Province had been driven to commit the crime by predictions of the end of the world, an initial investigation by the public security department revealed Monday.
According to the initial police probe, Min Yongjun, 36, a long-time epilepsy sufferer, attacked an elderly woman who lived next to the school and the students after hearing that according to the Mayan calendar, the end of the world would fall on December 21.
Ouyang Mingxing, a deputy director of Guangshan's public security bureau, told the Global Times Monday that though Min suffers from epilepsy, he was fully aware of what he was doing during the attack.
During the interrogation, Min said he was locked inside his home by his father following an epileptic seizure. Believing that doomsday was approaching, Min fled his home on Thursday night after beating his parents and two children.
Early on Friday, he burst into an elderly woman's house near the elementary school of Chenpeng village in Guangshan. During a struggle with the woman, Min stabbed her with a kitchen knife he picked up in the house.
Believing that he had killed the woman, Min decided to gain greater notoriety.
"I learned from the media two years ago that killing children would get me on TV," Min confessed.
Min rushed to the school at 7:30 am, as students were arriving.
According to Zhang Zhifeng, deputy head of Guangshan county's discipline inspection authority, surveillance camera footage showed that when the attack began, no teachers or security guards appeared, and the knife-wielding Min managed to make it all the way to the third floor of the school building before he was stopped.
When the class teachers and the school's duty teachers arrived at the school after 7:30 am, the attack had already begun.
The security guard at the school gate was Zhang Changsheng, the owner of a small store at the gate, who opened the gate at 7 am each day. He only joined the other teachers in tackling the suspect after many students had already been attacked.
Min was later subdued by teachers and police after stabbing 23 elementary school students.
According to Ouyang, Min said his knowledge of the end of the world came from a woman named Jin Guozhu. Jin, 61, had been telling doomsday stories to villagers, saying that "the end of the world is coming and the Earth will explode." Police found over 70 pamphlets promoting predictions about the end of the world at Jin's home, but the woman had already fled.
The victims, including four with heavy injuries, are receiving medical care at hospitals in Guangshan, Xinyang, the city that administers the county, and Central China's Wuhan.
The local authorities said that the injured are in stable condition.
Following the attack, the local government came under fire for allegedly attempting to cover up the incident and inappropriately handling the aftermath.
Ironically, the Xinyang Daily, an official paper of the city, Monday carried a report on its front page singing the praises of Guangshan's education sector. However, no reports on the school attack were carried on the front page.
The report triggered widespread anger on the Internet, with many Web users calling it "disgraceful" and "inappropriate."
A Web user with the user name "Heling" asked on Sina Weibo whether it was an attempt at crisis management by the local authority, and demanded a probe into the article.
Han Zhiguo, an economist, also commented on Weibo that the report challenged the public's conscience and intelligence.
An official with the county's publicity department surnamed Wu told the Global Times via telephone that the interview with the local education bureau was done on December 5, and he did not know why the paper chose to carry the report on Monday.
Another staff member at the publicity department, who declined to reveal his name, told the Global Times via phone that the authority had not requested that the paper publish the story. "We are also curious about the publication of the story, as it was inappropriate to carry it at such a sensitive time," he said.
The Xinyang Daily later on Monday apologized for the report.
"If we can't ensure security (at school), how can we talk about education? We must reflect on the incident and the working styles of our officials. We should make self-criticisms to all the people of the county," Wen Zongfeng, Party secretary of Guangshan, told the Global Times Monday.
Zhou Feng, deputy chief of the county's education bureau and the man in charge of school security, said the safety of the county's students had long been a thorny issue.
Of the county's more than 300 primary schools and junior high schools, less than one-third hire full-time security guards. Most of the schools in rural areas cannot afford full-time security guards, despite repeated calls to do so from the authority. Teachers who have no classes often temporarily double as security guards.
Late on Monday night, the Party committee of Guangshan decided to sack Zhang Zongzhu, deputy headmaster of the elementary school of Chenpeng village, Wang Shengying, headmaster of Wenshu School which oversees the elementary school, and Pei Guangbin, head of the police station in Wenshu. It also dismissed three other officials in Wenshu.