OSAKA – A 63-year-old man angry over a tax dispute used Molotov cocktails to set fire to City Hall in Takarazuka, Hyogo Prefecture, on Friday morning, injuring at least five people, police and firefighters said.
Shoji Takahashi, who was arrested at the scene, allegedly told investigators, “I did it because I was frustrated.”
Authorities had in 2012 seized Takahashi’s bankbook and other assets over his nonpayment of property tax on his condominium. He had told a city official before the arrest, “My life has been messed up as you have seized (my belongings),” according to the municipal government.
Takahashi allegedly brought several bottles and a plastic tank filled with an unidentified flammable liquid to the municipal building, and hurled two of the bottles into the first floor area at around 9:40 a.m., the police said.
He then hurled the two bottles to start the fire and started spreading gasoline inside the first floor in the hope of feeding it, they said, adding there was a separate container, also carrying gasoline, in the car he drove to the city office.
The five people who were injured included two women, aged 45 and 50, who were visiting City Hall, and three municipal employees.
All sustained minor injuries, according to the police.
The fire was extinguished at around 10:50 a.m. after burning around 2,200 sq. meters, firefighters said. The entire building was temporarily evacuated.
Some 500 officials and more than 100 visitors were inside when the fire started.
Takahashi, who was caught by city officials after fleeing the scene to a parking lot, had been working on a daily basis in a number of manual labor jobs until late last year.
Mayor Tomoko Nakagawa told reporters the municipal government suspended all operations, including early voting for the Hyogo gubernatorial and Upper House elections, for the three-day weekend. Monday is Marine Day.