The man killed by San Francisco police after ramming a car into the Chinese consulate in an attack that drew international attention was swinging a knife when an officer shot him, newly released video shows.
The video footage, which the San Francisco Police Department published Thursday, revealed new details about the final moments of Zhanyuan Yang, 31, the Chinese national who crashed a blue Honda through the lobby of the visa office of the consulate near San Francisco’s Japantown on Oct. 9.
SFPD released multiple videos and other evidence from the case during a virtual community meeting. Police identified the officer who discharged his firearm as Troy Carrasco, a sergeant who joined the department in 1994.
After driving into the consulate, Yang got out of the car and was heard by a witness shouting, “Where is the CCP?” in an apparent reference to the Chinese Communist Party. Video recorded by a bystander showed him scuffling with security guards and trying to remove an object from the car before police arrived.
The shooting was unusual because it occurred within the confines of the Chinese consulate, which is considered foreign soil, not long before San Francisco will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a gathering of world leaders from Pacific Rim nations. One of the biggest questions looming over the event is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend.
The location raised questions about whether San Francisco agencies would have access to the crime scene. However, the Chinese government condemned the attack and urged the U.S. to investigate. The U.S. State Department stepped in to coordinate with the Chinese government on behalf of the SFPD, according to Police Chief Bill Scott.
The shooting unfolded after multiple 911 calls came in around 3 p.m. reporting a man drove a car into the consulate. One caller said the man had a gun, while another said that the driver was bleeding from his head.
"Please send us SWAT as soon as possible," a caller said.
The crash sent frightened people running out of the building as security guards tried to get the man, later identified as Yang, under control.
Body-worn camera footage shows Carrasco ran into the consulate and confronted the suspect, who appeared to be shielding his face from pepper spray that was deployed before police arrived on the scene.
The sergeant then pushed Yang against a wall.
"I will never surrender," Yang can be heard saying in body-camera footage.
Yang then turned around and swung a knife before Carrasco shot him with a pistol at close range, the video shows.
"The guy should have told me he had a knife," Carrasco said after the shooting, according to the footage.
Police later found a crossbow in the back of the car.
After releasing the footage, the chief said the situation was consistent with an "active attacker" event that officers are trained to stop.
"If we believe that we have an active attacker event, we will do everything possible to stop that threat immediately so that we don't have a loss of life," Scott said.
The shooting is the subject of multiple ongoing investigations, including by the SFPD and the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.
What led Yang to drive into the consulate is unclear. People who knew him told The Standard that he was both “very reserved” and socially isolated.
In 2012, Yang was described as a rising entrepreneur who started a communications firm while studying at a college in China. He began taking classes at colleges in San Francisco as long ago as 2015, when he studied filmmaking at the now-defunct San Francisco Art Institute, according to another student at the private college who asked to remain anonymous.
Chinese students at the school knew little about Yang beyond his name and perceived him as nerdy, according to the other student, a Chinese national.
"The impression we had about him was that he didn’t quite like to socialize," he said.
Yang had lived at an apartment in the Inner Sunset for about eight years, according to his landlord, who described him as a “very nice guy.”
“I’m very upset and surprised,” said Victor Lyapis, the landlord.
Lyapis said Yang recently had trouble making rent. Last month, Yang had issues getting money from China and his check bounced, the landlord said.
When reporters from The Standard were allowed into Yang’s apartment three days after his death, they found his room in disarray, with a pile of what appeared to be replica firearms on the ground and possibly fake pistols elsewhere in the room. It was unclear whether any of the guns were real. There was also a bow-and-arrow mounted on the wall in the living area.
Yang had left his wallet and keys atop a book about political assassinations. He also had literature in Chinese and English on everything from filmmaking to religion and science fiction.
His roommate, who did not give her name, said that the car Yang drove into the consulate did not belong to him, but rather to another person who lived in the apartment. She could not explain why Yang would carry out the attack and said that he spent his time playing video games, running, shooting his bow and arrow at a park and flying his drone.
“If he became radicalized, it was recent,” she said.
Neither the roommate nor Lyapis were aware of police having searched the apartment as of at least last Thursday, three days after the attack.
Lyapis said he was only aware of an investigator with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner leaving a card at the door.
Scott, the police chief, confirmed for the first time Thursday that the department had searched the apartment and seized items but did not say when.
When asked whether the department did not conduct the search early in the investigation because it had confidence Yang acted alone, Scott declined to answer.