Fugitive gunman kills police officer in SW China

Police in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality are continuing to hunt for a fugitive armed robber who is suspected of killing nine people since 2004, including a police officer who was allegedly shot dead last Friday.

Chongqing police confirmed Sunday that one of its officers was gunned down while pursuing suspect Zhou Kehua in the city’s suburbs.

The latest development has added to the terror caused by the 42-year-old gunman, who has been known to target people withdrawing money from banks and become an expert at dodging police manhunts, a municipal law enforcement official said.

Over the past eight years, Zhou has been suspected of killing nine people, including the police officer in Chongqing, and wounding five others in the cities of Chongqing, Nanjing and Changsha, the official said.

Zhou is a “class-A” wanted suspect by the Ministry of Public Security. The bounty placed on his head currently stands at 5.4 million yuan (850,393 U.S. dollars), according to media reports.

Chinese laws ban the private possession of firearms. Crimes involving firearms, though rare, often attract a great deal of public attention.

“We have not seen this kind of cold-blooded killer in years,” said the police official, who declined to be named.

Police said Zhou was born and grew up in rural Chongqing. At the age of 15, he was detained for two weeks for harassing women. After that, he left home to work in other cities for about 25 yeas, including five years as a porter at a railway station. From 2000 to 2004, he lived in southwestern border regions.

Media reports have also said that Zhou was jailed briefly in south China’s Yunnan province, which borders Myanmar, in 2005 for trafficking firearms.

Chongqing police fanned out to arrest Zhou last Friday after he allegedly shot three people, including one fatally, who were withdrawing money at a Bank of China branch in the city. Zhou allegedly grabbed one of the victim’s bags and fled via pedicab. Investigators said the weapon used was an illegally manufactured pistol.

The police official said Zhou meticulously planned his move and is “incredibly calm.”

Chongqing has offered 500,000 yuan for information leading to Zhou’s arrest. However, the local government has also told residents to refrain from attempting to confront or arrest him, as he is “ruthless and highly dangerous.”

Chen Qiaodi