BEIJING - Chinese police fired 12 shots at a petitioner and his vehicle, killing him and sparking accusations they overreacted, state-run media reported Tuesday.
Fang Jiushu had gone to a local government office to complain at being detained in a row over compensation for his house and land, which have had an electricity transmission line built through them, the Beijing News reported.
His lorry carried a wreath and signs reading "black jail", it said.
Two officers tried to drag him from the driver's seat, and he waved a 50-centimetre-long (19.7-inch) knife in the air, it quoted witness Guan Yuchun as saying.
"He did not injure anyone," she added.
Fang started up his vehicle, prompting police to open fire. An officer smashed the window to shoot into the cab three times, Guan said.
Authorities in the southwestern province of Yunnan said Fang was attempting to drive into a crowd and three people were injured. But witnesses said the vehicle was moving at walking pace at the time and the three were only hurt after he was shot and lost control.
Fang died later in hospital, Zhenxiong county police authorities said in a statement posted on China's Twitter-like Weibo after the incident last Thursday.
The Beijing News quoted county propaganda official Xiong Tao as saying Fang was "agitated" at the time.
"More people could have been wounded if the police had not stopped him in time," Xiong said. "The police fired in an emergency situation."
Around 100 local residents have signed a letter complaining that Fang was not endangering anyone's life and was wrongly killed, the paper said.
An initial investigation by local prosecutors said police "fired according to the law" and authorities have commended the officer who shot Fang dead, the report added.