Ministry to draw up security guidelines for care facilities following Sagamihara rampage

Kyodo, JIJI

The welfare ministry will draw up guidelines for security measures at care facilities in the wake of Tuesday’s deadly knife rampage at a facility for the disabled, a ministry official said Saturday.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will draw up the guidelines by fall at the latest, according to the official.

The move comes after a 26-year-old man allegedly killed 19 people and injured 26 others at the care home in Sagamihara, southwest of Tokyo, in one of the worst mass killings in postwar Japan.

Satoshi Uematsu, a former worker at Tsukui Yamayuri En, is suspected of entering a building at the facility by breaking a window on the ground floor. Investigative sources said Uematsu had a shoulder bag with at least five knives, two hammers, zip ties and a glove when he attacked the facility, showing that the attack was premeditated.

Other than installing security cameras, the ministry is considering requiring facility operators to introduce emergency call systems to enable quick access to police and security companies, according to the officials.

The ministry is also considering enlisting local residents to strengthen security measures.

Also Friday, officials from the ministry conducted an on-site inspection of Kitasato University East Hospital in Sagamihara, where Uematsu was temporarily hospitalized before the mass murder.

Around early February, Uematsu started making discriminatory remarks about the disabled and is alleged to have professed his intention to kill them, prompting authorities to commit him to the hospital.

On Feb. 20, he told a doctor that “Hitler’s ideology came down to me two weeks ago,” referring to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. After being examined by two doctors, he was judged to have cannabis-induced psychosis and delusional disorder, whereby he was forcibly hospitalized again.

The murders sent shock waves across the nation, especially for people with disabilities and their families.

“I’m worried that something similar to Hitler’s beliefs will spread,” said Miyo Ito, 63, who has a 31-year-old autistic son with a severe mental disability. Daiki, her son, is an artist who has held exhibitions.

Ito is worried the incident could spawn copycat killers.

“I want to tell my son that there is no shame in having disabilities because they are living (their lives) to their fullest,” she said.

In Mitaka, a suburb in western Tokyo, Miho Katagi, 42, noticed that the expression on the face of her 14-year-old son who is mildly mentally disabled changed after he watched the news on the Sagamihara killings.

“Let me know if I’m becoming troublesome,” the son told his mother.

“There’s not one child whose life is not worth living. Every life, including those who died, is precious,” she told him. She said she has since refrained from watching the news.