Zhou Kehua, who is suspected of killing nine people, spent eight years on the run before being shot dead in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing early on Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The 42-year-old’s death ends a huge search that began when he reportedly shot and killed a woman outside a bank in Chongqing on Friday morning, wounding another two people, before killing a police officer later that day.
State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of Zhou’s bloodied corpse and said he had been killed in a shoot-out with police at a shoe factory on the mountainous outskirts of Chongqing.
Police in Chongqing launched a massive manhunt after receiving reports Zhou was hiding out in nearby mountain caves, the Global Times reported.
Images of Zhou – described by authorities as “ruthless and highly dangerous” – were plastered across the city on wanted posters, the Global Times daily reported.
Police in the city and two neighbouring provinces were reportedly ordered to cancel all leave to take part in the hunt for Zhou, and authorities offered a 500,000 yuan ($79,000) reward for information leading to his capture.
Zhou, who was born in rural Chongqing, began his crime spree when he shot and killed a woman during a 70,000 yuan bank heist in the city in 2004, Xinhua said.
Police believe he was also responsible for shootings in Changsha, in China’s central Hunan province, and Nanjing in the eastern province of Jiangsu, earning him the title “China’s most dangerous man” in the Chinese media.
China’s Ministry of Public Security classified Zhou as a “class-A” wanted suspect.
“We have not seen this kind of cold-blooded killer in years,” one police official told Xinhua news agency.
Chinese media gave the hunt for Zhou heavy coverage, and his death was one of the hottest topics on Sina Weibo – China’s answer to Twitter – on Tuesday morning, where thousands posted messages praising the police operation.
Gun crime is relatively rare in China, where extremely tight laws bar almost all private ownership of firearms.