Rape suspect on the lam captured in a park

Sugimoto apprehended 47 hours after escape from detention in Kawasaki

Kyodo, Staff Report

A rape suspect who fled from a prosecutor’s office was arrested Thursday at a park in Yokohama, ending a three-day manhunt involving about 4,000 police officers.

Placed on a nationwide wanted list, Yuta Sugimoto, 20, was nabbed at 12:56 p.m. in a park in Izumi Ward, Yokohama. He was transported to the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Prosecutor’s Office, where he had escaped from Monday.

A fugitive for about 47 hours, Sugimoto was captured about 20 km from the prosecutor’s office. Police said he was alone when he was found.

Police said they tracked him through signals from a mobile phone they suspect was given to him by a friend aiding his flight, according to investigative sources.

Coverage of Sugimoto being escorted by police was broadcast live on NHK. Hands cuffed behind him and leaning slightly forward, he was shown walking slowly with his eyes lowered, and surrounded by more than a dozen police officers.

On Thursday morning, police mobilized about 4,000 officers and about 900 patrol cars, following up leads from more than 70 witnesses.

Speculating that the Kawasaki native would stay in an area familiar to him, police searched manga cafes and empty houses in Kanagawa Prefecture, as well as scoured surveillance camera footage from local sites.

Security was also tightened around elementary and junior high schools in Kawasaki, where pupils arrived accompanied by parents or in groups Thursday morning. Children were guarded by police officers and volunteers.

Sugimoto was arrested Monday for allegedly violently robbing a woman in the city’s Asao Ward and confining her for a couple of hours in a car on Jan. 2. Sugimoto and another man allegedly took ¥150,000 in cash from the woman.

Sugimoto was arrested on suspicion of robbery, confinement and sexual assault.

On Tuesday morning he was escorted from the Miyamae Police Station in Kawasaki to the local prosecutor’s office. After arriving at 9:24 a.m., he was given a health check on the fourth floor of the building.

Sugimoto met with a lawyer in an interrogation room on the sixth floor at around 1:44 p.m.

According to the police, a rope around his waist was loosened when he asked a senior officer in his 50s for a toilet break around 2:04 p.m. The officer retied the rope around 2:10 p.m. and the meeting with the lawyer resumed.

When an assistant officer also at the meeting with the lawyer left the room at 2:16 p.m., Sugimoto told the senior officer the rope was too loose. Sugimoto reportedly removed it and fled the room the moment the officer stood behind him to retie it. Three minutes later he reportedly pushed aside the senior officer, who had followed Sugimoto downstairs, and ran across a street against the red light in the direction of the Tama River.

Sugimoto fled in his socks, leaving behind his sandals in the interrogation room.

Police found the sweatshirt Sugimoto was wearing during the interrogation Tuesday about 100 meters from the prosecutor’s office after 6 p.m. the same day.

Police speculated that Sugimoto changed clothes while on the run, but received no reports of robberies in the area.