A knife-wielding man went on a stabbing rampage at a facility for the disabled Tuesday morning in Japan, killing at least 19 people and injuring 20 others in the country’s worst mass killing since World War II.
Authorities said they received a call from an employee of the Tsukui Yamayuri-en (Tsukui Lily Garden) center just after 2:30 a.m. saying a man with a knife had broken into the building. The facility is located in Sagamihara, about 30 miles west of Tokyo.
The suspected attacker was identified as 26-year-old Satoshi Uematsu, a former employee of the facility, the Kyodo news agency reported. He later turned himself in at a police station where he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and unlawful entry to a building.
The victims were all residents of the facility — nine men ranging in age from 41 to 67, and 10 women from 18 to 70 years old.
Investigators said Uematsu entered the facility with three knives and a cable tie that he used to tie up facility staff, NHK reported. Uematsu had worked at the facility since December 2012, but resigned in February for personal reasons.
The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported the suspect told police, “I want to get rid of the disabled from this world.” Uematsu was reportedly in possession of a bag of knives and sharp tools, some covered in blood, when he turned himself in.
Images from the scene Tuesday showed dozens of firetrucks and emergency workers responding to the facility.
Tsukui Yamayuri-en is a 7-acre government-established residential care facility home to 149 residents between the ages of 19 and 75, Kyodo reported.
Kiyoshi Nakatsuka, vice chairman of the of the family’s association of the facility, told reporters at the scene that he learned about the pre-dawn attack on TV. Inside the home, he said, was a “shocking” scene with blood splattered in the hallway and bloody footprints that appeared to be those of the killer.
Nakatsuka said his son, who has been living at the facility for around 20 years, survived the attack, and added that he did not know the suspected killer.
“It’s crazy to attack sleeping disabled people,” he said. “They cannot resist at all.”
A woman who lives near the facility told BuzzFeed News she went to elementary school with Uematsu. He was “nice and kind to everyone,” she said.
The last time she saw Uematsu was five years ago, when he was walking hand-in-hand with an elderly resident at the facility.
“I thought he was the same nice person I used to know,” she said. “I can’t believe that he is the kind of person who would kill people.”
The White House condemned the attack in a statement and offered condolences to the families of those killed:
The United States offers our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in the heinous attack today in Sagamihara, Japan. We also pray for the speedy recovery of the dozens of individuals who were wounded. 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. The thoughts of the American people are with our Japanese friends as they mourn the lives lost.
Mass killings in Japan are rare. In 2001, a man killed eight children and injured 15 others in a stabbing attack at a school in Osaka. In 2008, a man plowed a truck into a crowd in Tokyo’s Akihabara district then stabbed passersby, killing seven people and injuring 10 others.
“[This case is] one of the worst mass killing in Japan since the end of WWII,” Mikio Kawai, a professor of legal sociology at Toin University of Yokohama, told BuzzFeed News.
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