Updated at the bottom with Zhang pleading not guilty -- and with some possible background on him, including that he might have feared for his life in China after outing the Chinese secret police in a plot to kill Falun Gong prisoners. Maybe. First posted at 2:59 p.m. on Dec. 16.
The man who allegedly shot up the Chinese Consulate near Koreatown yesterday turned himself in to police, the LAPD says.
They're IDing him as Jeff Baoliang Zhang, a 67-year-old from Shanghai who now lives in Las Vegas. Something allegedly set him off.
This Associated Press account might have narrowed it down:
A group demonstrating against human rights abuses in China had gathered outside the consulate earlier Thursday. One protester argued with a security guard after the guard allegedly took a sign and threw it in the trash. The protester then got into a vehicle and allegedly opened fire.
(Note to self: Don't throw crazy protesters' signs in trash).
The suspect reported fired nine shots at the guard and missed. Whew. He might have been aiming at security guard Cipriano Gutierrez, who told KCAL News:
I hit the ground and I was praying. I grabbed phone books and put them over my head. A bullet came in the room right next to my knee. I thought I was going to die.
Only in L.A., by the way, do you see Chinese-on-Latino crime.
Anyway, gunfire broke out outside the Consulate, which is at 443 Shatto Place. That's a street more notorious for its gang crime and its connection to the LAPD's Rampart Scandal than for such international incidents of intrigue.
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The shooter drove off, cops said.
Zhang turned himself in at the LAPD's Wilshire Division (which, strangely, is down on Venice Boulevard near La Brea) about 5 p.m. yesterday, cops said. The senior apparently brought his 9 mm gun with him and officers took it.
He was booked on suspicion of attempted murder and locked up in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Guessing the suspect is no fan of Gandhi and King.
[Update at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 20]: Zhang pleaded not guilty today to charges of assault with a semautomatic weapon and shooting into an inhabited dwelling.
A tipster sent us this video, in which a man by a similar name is identified as a former Shanghai cop who revealed alleged plans for a blood-bank database run by Chinese secret police bent on persecuting members of the Falun Gong.
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The subject said the aim of the database was to identify prisoners "who may be killed for their organs," according to the video news report.
Because of his revelation, Zhang is said to have outed himself as being in "grave danger" and asked for vigilance. The report stated his Chinese home was being watched by police 24/7. Zhang said he believed the secret police would kill him.
Our tipster said it was Falun Gong that was, in fact, protesting outside the Consulate last week.