Attacker in Japan stabs, kills 19 in their sleep at disabled center
A police officer stands guard in front of the Tsukui police station where a murder suspect is being held for a knife attack at a disabled persons facility outside Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. AP photoA knife-wielding man stabbed and killed 19 people as they slept at a facility for the disabled in a town near Tokyo early on July 26, a senior government official said, Japan’s worst mass killing in decades.
At least 25 other residents of the facility were wounded in the attack.
“This is a very heart-wrenching and shocking incident in which many innocent people became victims,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a scheduled news conference in Tokyo, according to Reuters.
Police have arrested Satoshi Uematsu, 26, a former employee at the facility in Sagamihara town in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 40 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, a Kanagawa official said. At least one media report said Uematsu had called for euthanasia of the severely disabled.
Uematsu had turned himself in, the Kanagawa prefecture official, identified only by his surname of Sakuma, told an earlier news conference carried on public broadcaster NHK.
Another 25 people were wounded, 20 of them seriously, Sakuma said.
Kyodo news agency said the dead ranged in age from 19 to 70 and included nine males and 10 females.
Staff called police at 2.30 a.m. local time (05:30 p.m. GMT July 25) with reports of a man armed with a knife on the grounds of the Tsukui Yamayuri-En facility, media reported. The man wore a black T-shirt and trousers, reports said.
The 3-hectare facility, established by the local government and nestled on the wooded bank of the Sagami River, cares for people with a wide range of disabilities, NHK said, quoting an unidentified employee.
Residents of the small town of Sagamihara said the last murder in the area was 10 years ago.
A woman who said she used to work at the facility said many patients were profoundly disabled.
“They are truly innocent people. What did they do? This is shocking,” she told Japanese television station TBS.
Police had recovered a bag with several knives, at least one stained with blood, the Kanagawa prefecture official said.
Police said they were still investigating possible motives.
Asahi Shimbun reported that the suspect was quoted by police as saying: “I want to get rid of the disabled from this world.” Other reports said he had held a grudge after being fired from his job at the facility.
Japanese top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told reporters July 26 that “this is a very tragic and shocking incident where many innocent people became victims. I sincerely pray for peace for the souls of those killed and extend condolences to the bereaved families as well as those wounded,” according to the Associated Press.
He said police together with government will work hard on the investigation “to grasp the whole picture.”
A U.S. government statement issued by the White House expressed shock at the “heinous attack” and offered condolences to the families of those killed in the knife attack at a facility for the handicapped in Japan.
The statement by National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said “there is never any excuse for such violence, but the fact that this attack occurred at a facility for persons with disabilities makes it all the more repugnant and senseless.”