Chinese police gun down alleged serial killer

(CBS/AP) BEIJING - A Chinese man suspected of killing nine people in armed robberies since 2004 was shot dead by police Tuesday after senior officials ordered he be hunted down, authorities said.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security said police in southwest Chongqing city found and killed Zhou Kehua, 42, after an extensive manhunt. Zhou was one of China's most wanted fugitives.

Police officials said two plainclothes officers spotted Zhou on a street at 6:45 a.m., according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Wang Xiaoyu, one of the policemen who shot Zhou, told Xinhua he was attacked first when Zhou realized he was being followed.

"He was less than three meters ahead of us," Wang recalled, saying Zhou's first shot missed him by about a centimeter. "I could even feel his cartridge case bounce onto my leg."

Police told Xinhua Zhou had two pistols, three loaded bullet clips and the equivalent of about $1,600 in yuan.

The ministry said Zhou was believed to have been responsible for the shooting deaths of several people in Chongqing and two other Chinese cities since 2004.

Most recently, Zhou allegedly shot to death one person and injured two in an armed bank robbery in the city on Friday.

The latest violence prompted senior Chinese officials - including Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu and Chongqing Communist Party boss Zhang Dejiang - to issue directives that the suspect be arrested as soon as possible.

The ministry said Meng and a vice minister traveled to Chongqing, where they ordered an operation to hunt down Zhou.

Photos posted on the website of Xinhua (WARNING: Graphic image) show Zhou lying in a pool of blood with a bullet hole in his head.

China bans private ownership of guns, and armed robberies are rare. State media say Zhou's death brought relief to both police and the public.

Immediately after Zhou was shot to death, Meng signed an official document praising the Chongqing police.