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Chiba police free female hostage, arrest man after attack, standoff at church

Kyodo, Staff Report

Chiba Prefectural Police arrested a 36-year-old man Friday after he went on an injurious rampage and barricaded himself in a church with a hostage, a 51-year-old female counselor, in the town of Sakura.

Special police forces stormed the church just before 5 a.m. Friday and arrested Daisuke Kotabe for allegedly confining the woman, who suffered injuries but was safe.

Kotabe, who is from Sakura, has admitted attacking the victim and holding her hostage, the police said.

They said Kotabe was at Sakura Ojidai Chapel to receive counseling from the woman when, at around 8:30 p.m. Thursday, he took out a bat and a knife from his rucksack and attacked his parents, who are in their 70s, the counselor and one other man, also in his 70s, at the church.

His parents and the man were also injured, but they managed to escape, police said, adding that none of the four victims sustained life-threatening injuries.

The police had tried to persuade Kotabe to release the hostage, but decided to storm the church about eight hours after the ordeal started, they said.

Kotabe reportedly had trouble with his parents and had been receiving counseling at the church. The police said they will investigate the cause of the attack.

The church is located in a busy urban district a few hundred meters northeast of Keisei Usui Station.

Neighbors expressed relief at the arrest of the man. A 37-year-old woman who lived by the church said she saw investigators arrive with sasumata (two-pronged poles used to restrain attackers) and shields. “It really worried me to see a crime take place so close,” she said.

At Manodai Elementary School, located some 600 meters south of the church, principal Masahiro Yamamoto kept a close watch as children came to school. “We would have delayed the school’s start had the perpetrator not been arrested in time,” Yamamoto said. “We were also considering whether to dispatch school staff along the routes children walked to school. I’m sure parents are relieved to hear he has been caught.”