A gatekeeper at a Beijing kindergarten slashed 15 students and three teachers with a kitchen knife Wednesday, killing one child and leaving others terrified and covered in blood, police and news reports said.

Two of the children suffered serious injuries during the attack at the school run by the No. 1 Hospital of Peking University (search), police said. The university of is one of China's most prominent schools.

Police arrested Xu Heping, a 51-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia (search) who had worked part-time at the kindergarten for two years. Xu was a psychiatric patient at another Beijing hospital for five months in 1999, police said.

Authorities said they rushed to the kindergarten after receiving reports shortly after 9:30 a.m. that a man was attacking schoolchildren with a vegetable knife.

The official Xinhua News Agency, citing a reporter at the hospital, said the children were "covered in blood and looked terrified."

Police would not say how many children were in school at the time of the attack. Most Chinese students are off for summer vacation.

News reports did not mention the children's ages, and police would not release additional information. Hospital employees would not comment.

The kindergarten and hospital are near the compound where President Hu Jintao (search) and other Chinese leaders live and work.

The school primarily serves children of hospital employees. It was unclear whether the children of any senior officials were there at the time of the attack.

The tree-lined street in front of the kindergarten was cordoned off with yellow police tape. One onlooker said he helped police escort injured teachers to the hospital after hearing the commotion.

"I saw the children lying on the ground. There was blood on the floor," said the man, who identified himself only as Mr. Xu, a common Chinese surname.

China's leadership takes pains to portray the country as a safe place where an increasingly well-off population reaps the rewards of government-led economic growth. But a spate of serial murders, gangland bombings and mass poisonings over the past several years threatens to undermine that message.