SAITAMA – Police were on high alert Monday morning as pupils of Oizumi Daiichi Elementary School in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, arrived, some accompanied by parents and teachers, in the wake of a nearby knife attack Friday that left three kids hurt.
“My daughter witnessed the attack and told me she didn’t want to go to school,” said the 37-year-old mother of a first-grader who passed through the school gate along with other pupils at 8 a.m.
Crossing guard Isamu Hiroto, 71, who tried to protect the children, was also on hand to ensure the kids got to school safely. Hiroto scuffled with the attacker, a 47-year-old man who was arrested Friday in Saitama Prefecture.
“The children are in great shock,” Hiroto said. “We need the community as a whole to protect them.”
The Metropolitan Police Department plans to offer a letter of appreciation to Hiroto and a witness who reported the license number of the car he fled in.
The board of education of Nerima Ward sent a psychologist to the school to help the children deal with the incident.
The Shakujii police station said officers will remain on high alert in the neighborhood to ensure the 26 elementary schools and routes in their district stay safe.
The suspect, who is unemployed, was arrested for attempted murder and possession of a weapon. He is apparently making incoherent statements, and police are trying to ascertain his motive for the assault and whether he is mentally fit to be held liable.
The man, whose name has not been released, was served more warrants Saturday.
The man allegedly attacked two 6-year-old boys and one 7-year-old boy with a fruit knife on a street near Oizumi Daiichi Elementary School at around 1:40 p.m. Friday. The boys sustained neck and arm wounds, but their injuries are not life-threatening.
The police suspect the man targeted kids. Security camera footage showed his car parked in front of the school’s main gate around 20 minutes before the attack.
Oizumi Daiichi Elementary School alerted police about a month ago after having a run-in with a man resembling the suspect. On May 30, a male intruder was seen at the school apparently mumbling incoherently.
A week before the May incident, a neighbor reported to police that a man resembling the suspect was shouting in his backyard and acting strange.
Four days before Friday’s assault, a 55-year-old man who was watching over a group of children on their way to another school was suddenly hit by a man who approached in silence and ran away. The attacker also resembled the arrested man. Both incidents were reported to the police.