Japan Killing Spree: Politician Warned, Lack of Security Questioned

Japan Killing Spree: Politician Warned, Lack of Security Questioned
Photo Credit: REUTERS/達志影像

What you need to know

Warning signs? Five months ago, the man who killed 19 and injured dozens more in a stabbing spree at a care center in Japan today told a politician he would attack the disabled.

A knife-wielding man killed 19 people at a facility for the disabled in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, early this morning. Media reports say at least 25 people were also injured, 20 of them seriously.

Police received an emergency call at 2:30 am and arrested the 26-year-old suspect, Satoshi Uematsu, when he turned himself in to the police shortly after 3:00 am.

He was a former employee of the center and is reported to have told a politician earlier this year that he would carry out a major violent act against disabled people.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the facility was established in 1964 to house mentally ill patients over 18 years of age. In 2005, an independent social welfare association, the Kanagawa Foundation, began operating the facility. As of April this year, the facility housed 149 people.

In a press conference, the Kanagawa Prefecture government revealed that the suspect worked at the foundation from December 2012 until February this year, the Asahi Shimbun reported. Initial police reports also confirmed that the suspect was a “former employee at the facility."

The police investigation discovered that the suspect had visited the residence of a House of Representatives member in February. He handed the member a letter describing how he “would kill 470 disabled people for Japan” and “hopes for a world where disabled can be euthanized,” NHK reports.

A Chinese-Japanese socio-political critic Sekihei Taro has criticized the facility’s apparent helplessness. In a series of tweets he says, “The disabled in the facility were in need of protection. From my followers, I understand the facility was in a difficult situation, but our society still must deal with the issue. The issue is the facility did not have adequate counter-measures.”

The director of a similar facility in Osaka told the Sankei Shimbun, “[Facilities] lock doors during night, but less staff will be available. Those with severe mental disabilities will have trouble understanding dangerous situations and will have difficulty escaping. With limited staff, leading the disabled out is difficult.”

In the wake of the incident, the Osaka government has issued fresh safety guidelines for violent intrusions to the roughly 90 facilities for the mentally disabled in the prefecture.

‘Cheerful guy’

The suspect’s neighbors saw him favorably, according to Jiji News Agency. “He would greet people, he spoke brightly and was a humble, good young man,” said one neighbor. However, other neighbors had heard rumors the suspect had previously been violent to those staying at the facility.

In an interview with Fuji News Network, a friend of the suspect said the incident was surprising. “He was a cheerful guy, he didn’t seem the type to cause harm to people. [… ] He was a party starter, he livened up people, he was the type to have fun.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also commented in the incident.

“Many have died or suffered injuries [from this incident]. From my heart, I pay my respects to their souls. We must now investigate the details of the incident,” JiJi News Agency reports him saying.

Yoshihide Suga, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said, “To prevent an incident like this from happening again, all ministries and agencies should cooperate with the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare to review and respond to the incident.”

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole