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Letter Foretold Japan Rampage          07/26 06:15

   SAGAMIHARA, Japan (AP) -- A young Japanese man went on a stabbing rampage 
Tuesday at a facility for the mentally disabled where he had been fired, 
officials said, killing 19 people months after he gave a letter to Parliament 
outlining the bloody plan and saying all disabled people should be put to death.

   When he was done, Kanagawa prefectural authorities said. 26-year-old Satoshi 
Uematsu had left dead or injured nearly a third of the almost 150 patients at 
the facility in a matter of 40 minutes in the early Tuesday attack. It is 
Japan's deadliest mass killing in decades. The fire department said 25 were 
wounded, 20 of them seriously.

   Security camera footage played on TV news programs showed a man driving up 
in a black car and carrying several knives to the Tsukui Yamayuri-en facility 
in Sagamihara, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Tokyo. The man broke in by 
shattering a window at 2:10 a.m., according to a prefectural health official, 
and then set about slashing the patients' throats.

   Sagamihara fire department official Kunio Takano said the attacker killed 10 
women and nine men. The youngest was 19, the oldest 70.

   Details of the attack, including whether the victims were asleep or 
otherwise helpless, were not immediately known. Kanagawa prefecture welfare 
division official Tatsuhisa Hirosue said many details weren't clear because 
those who might know were still being questioned by police.

   The suspect calmly turned himself in about two hours after the attack, 
police said.

   Uematsu had worked at Tsukui Yamayuri-en, which means mountain lily garden, 
from 2012 until February, when he was let go. He knew the staffing would be 
down to just a handful in the wee hours of the morning, Japanese media reports 
said.

   Not much is known yet about his background, but Uematsu once dreamed of 
becoming a teacher. In two group photos posted on his Facebook, he looks happy, 
smiling widely with other young men.

   "It was so much fun today. Thank you, all. Now I am 23, but please be 
friends forever," a 2013 post says.

   But somewhere along the way, things went terribly awry.

   In February, Uematsu tried to hand deliver a letter to Parliament's lower 
house speaker that revealed his dark turmoil. It demanded that all disabled 
people be put to death through "a world that allows for mercy killing," Kyodo 
news agency and TBS TV reported. The Parliament office also confirmed the 
letter.

   Uematsu boasted in the letter that he had the ability to kill 470 disabled 
people in what he called was "a revolution," and outlined an attack on two 
facilities, after which he said he will turn himself in. He also asked he be 
judged innocent on grounds of insanity, be given 500 million yen ($5 million) 
in aid and plastic surgery so he could lead a normal life afterward.

   "My reasoning is that I may be able to revitalize the world economy and I 
thought it may be possible to prevent World War III," the letter says.

   The letter included Uematsu's name, address and telephone number, and 
reports of his threats were relayed to local police where Uematsu lived, Kyodo 
said.

   Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa apologized for having failed to act on the 
warning signs.

   Some people in the area said they were shocked that Uematsu is accused, and 
described him as polite and upstanding.

   Akihiro Hasegawa, who lived next door to Uematsu, said he heard Uematsu had 
gotten in trouble with the facility, initially over sporting a tattoo, often 
frowned upon in mainstream Japanese society because of its association with 
criminal groups.

   "He was just an ordinary young fellow," he said.

   Yasuyuki Deguchi, a criminologist, said Uematsu's alleged actions were 
typical of someone who bears a grudge and seeks revenge, because it appeared he 
planned out the attack, and then he turned himself in to police.

   "Accomplishing his goal was all he wanted," Deguchi said on TV Asahi.

   Michael Gillan Peckitt, a lecturer in clinical philosophy at Osaka 
University in central Japan, and an expert on disabled people's issues in 
Japan, said the attack speaks more about Uematsu than the treatment of the 
disabled in Japan.

   "It highlights the need for an early-intervention system in the Japanese 
mental health system. Someone doesn't get to that state without some symptoms 
of mental illness," he said.

   Mass killings are rare in Japan. Because of the country's extremely strict 
gun-control laws, any attacker usually resorts to stabbings. In 2008, seven 
people were killed by a man who slammed a truck into a crowd of people in 
central Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district and then stabbed passers-by.

   In 2001, a man killed eight children and injured 13 others in a knife attack 
at an elementary school in the city of Osaka. The incident shocked Japan and 
led to increased security at schools.

   This month, a man stabbed four people at a library in northeastern Japan, 
allegedly over their improper handling of his questions. No one was killed.


(KA)

 
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