A viral video shows a SWAT sniper dramatically rescuing a young woman being held at knifepoint in the city of Nanning in Southern China last month.
Zeng Hao, 42, the captain of the Nanning SWAT team, told local media that it was his first time pulling the trigger on the job. He took the shot from 200 feet away, and could not miss by more than four inches without hitting the woman.
In the security footage from Aug. 9, the hostage-taker is walking through an underground train station with his right arm wrapped around the woman. He then takes her to a corner of the station and sits down with her between his legs, a knife held near her face.
The hostage taker, an 18-year-old man identified only by his surname, Huang, picked the victim at random in the station’s lobby, according to the police.
In the video, Zeng is seen jogging onto the scene just before 5 p.m. and setting up for a shot. To conceal himself, he lies on his stomach just around a corner from his target with the barrel of the rifle between a colleague’s legs.
Police said that the master marksman remained in position with his 7.62mm sniper rifle for two hours while negotiators sough to reason with the hostage-taker.
At around 7 p.m., the talks began to break down and Huang tried to harm the woman, police said.
“[Huan] wasn’t communicating, he refused to speak,” recalled chief negotiator Qi Hongwei to Nanning TV Station. “I asked him where he was from and why he was doing this.”
“Then, I asked him to let the girl go and offered him water, but he said no to everything,” Hongwei said.
He added that the suspect asked police to give him a gun so he could commit suicide and threatened to otherwise kill the woman, according to Nanning Evening News.
SWAT sniper shoots hostage-taker
At that point, Zeng was given the go-ahead. The video shows the gun ricochet as he fires a single shot. He racks the bolt to reload, officers rush over to free the hostage.
Zeng reportedly hit his target in the head, killing him instantly. The hostage was unharmed.
In a subsequent interview, Zeng said he had just finished training when he was called in to fire the first live round of his 19-year career in counterterrorism.
“My hands and shoulders went stiff many times, but I managed to stay focused and in the end shot the suspect in the head,” he said. “Because the suspect was sitting behind the victim, holding her, only about 10 centimeters [four inches] of his head was exposed. “Shooting anywhere else might’ve threatened the hostage, so I ruled out attempting to hit any other body parts.”
Zeng and Qi, along with three other officers, were commended for their actions during the operation.
Huang’s motives remain unclear, according to police.
Nanning police released footage of the standoff on Chinas Weibo social network last Friday, and it quickly went viral. The video began making the rounds in English-speaking media on Tuesday.
Bringing a knife to a gun fight
In China, firearms are strictly regulated, with private citizens mostly prohibited from owning them. While murder rates are low by international standards, there have been a series of knife attacks at Chinese schools since 2010.
On Monday, an attacker killed eight students and injured two others in a stabbing spree at an elementary school in Hubei province in central China, police said Tuesday.
The suspect in that case, 40-year-old man named Yu, was reportedly released from Hubei prison in June 2018 after serving a sentence for attempted murder, according to the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly, citing prison staff.
Meanwhile, in the United States, a deadly shooting in Odessa and Midland, Texas, has rekindled a national debate over gun control.
Democrats, including 2020 presidential contenders, have renewed their advocacy for background checks, “red flag” laws, gun buybacks and the like.
However, gun rights advocates have pointed out that the Odessa shooter had been barred under federal law from owning or buying firearms because a court had previously determined he was mentally unfit. Authorities are investigating how Seth Ator, 36, bought the rifle he used to kill seven people and wound 22 others.
On Sunday, before that news broke, President Donald Trump argued that background checks would not have prevented any of the recent mass shootings.
“Over the last five, six, or seven years, no matter how strong you need the background checks, it wouldn’t have stopped any of it,” he told reporters.
Trump has another plan for dealing with mass murderers. According to an administration official, the president has the Justice Department drafting legislation to expedite for such people.