San Francisco police shot and killed a man who crashed a car into the Chinese consulate near Japantown on Monday afternoon. The driver was armed with a knife and crossbow, according to an SFPD source with direct knowledge of the investigation.
Police and emergency vehicles swarmed the area around Laguna Street and Geary Boulevard. The fire department initially said the man had been taken to a hospital with serious injuries, but San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Kathryn Winters said around 6:30 p.m. that he had died.
The incident prompted strong protests from the Chinese government, which said the "extremely bad" incursion had seriously damaged the building and endangered workers.
"The mission severely condemns this violent attack and reserves the right to pursue responsibilities related to the incident," the consulate said in a statement. "Our mission has made solemn representations to the United States, demanding that the truth be quickly ascertained and dealt with seriously in accordance with the law."
San Francisco police said they were working with the U.S. State Department to investigate. Police did not release the identity of the driver or discuss what might have motivated his actions.
Video from The Standard's media partners at ABC7 showed a Honda sedan fully lodged in the Geary Street entrance to the consulate, where the visa office is located. A white tarp was later draped over the doorway.
Sergii Molchanov, a Stanford student, was at the consulate around 3:05 p.m. filing documents for a visa when the car drove into the building. In an interview with The Standard, he said he was about two meters away from the car, catching a glimpse of the driver. The driver's head was bleeding, Molchanov said, and he shouted, "Where's the CCP?" as he got out of the blue Honda.
Security guards then approached the driver, Molchanov said, and were able to hold his arms back. Molchanov did not see the driver holding any weapon, but saw security guards holding a knife.
"He looked at me and I was a little bit scared because I didn’t know if he had any gun or something," Molchanov said.
People started fleeing the consulate, Molchanov said, and within a couple of minutes, police were at the scene. He heard two gunshots.
“It’s quite terrifying and shocking to see," he said. "I've seen this on TV and to witness it in real life is quite different. People were terrified ... I was quite shocked with all that and am still processing that.”
Video filmed by Molchanov shows the Honda, with California license plates, lodged in the visa office as people flee the building.
Police were concerned that an explosive device may be in the vehicle, and bomb squad technicians and an explosives-sniffing dog were requested to come to the scene.
At least 11 police cars and emergency vehicles were on the scene.
A neighbor who lives in the apartment next door, who refused to give his name, said he heard four or five shots and then saw people rush out of the consulate into its courtyard.
Although some businesses were closed Monday for Indigenous People's Day and Columbus Day, a source inside the consulate said Monday was a normal work day for staff. Employees evacuated the building after the incident.
It was not immediately clear whether the driver had intentionally driven the vehicle into the building; however, the consulate has been subject to other attacks in the past.
In 2014, a fire was set at the main entrance to the consulate, significantly damaging the building’s doors and charring a large part of the consulate’s exterior before firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze.
That incident was investigated by the FBI and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security along with SFPD.
In November, the consulate was sprayed with graffiti. That vandalism came after about 100 people held a vigil in front of the building to honor 10 people who died in a fire in Urumqi, a city in China’s Xinjiang Province. Many protesters in China blamed the country’s strict Covid protocols for preventing the victims from escaping, though officials from the Chinese government have denied culpability.
Next month, San Francisco will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a gathering of world leaders from Pacific Rim nations. One of the biggest questions hanging over the event, which will draw President Joe Biden and other heads of state, is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend.
The gathering runs from Nov. 12 to 18.
Jonah Owen Lamb contributed reporting.
This is a developing story.
Staff writers Jonah Lamb, Han Li and Michael Barba contributed to this report.