A knife- and hammer-wielding man went on a rampage in a shopping district in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward Wednesday, killing two women and injuring six others, police said.
The assaults took place around 11:40 a.m. in the Ikebukuro area of Toshima Ward on a main road leading from JR Ikebukuro Station to the Sunshine 60 skyscraper.
The packed shopping street was thrown into chaos, as people ran for cover, but the man was quickly subdued by passersby and turned over to police.
The man was later identified as 23-year-old Hiroshi Zoda. The suspect, a former newspaper deliveryman, reportedly told police he was angry because he had not been able to find work over the past week. He also said his victims were chosen indiscriminately.
One of the women killed was identified as Kazuko Sumiyoshi, a 66-year-old housewife from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward. She was said to have been stabbed in her left side.
The other fatality was 29-year-old Mami Takahashi of Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, who was rushed to the hospital after the incident with serious injuries.
Tadashi Sumiyoshi, 71, was also reported in serious condition from stab wounds.
The remaining victims suffered minor injuries. They were identified as Kenta Hori, 15, of Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward; Yojiro Kawamata, 15, of Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward; Kohei Amakusa, 16, of Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture; Shinichi Kitamura, 45, of Tokyo’s Nerima Ward; and Tomoko Sasamoto, 52, also of Tokyo’s Nerima Ward.
Hori, a first-year student at Musashi High School in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, was on his way home after shopping with a friend.
“A man ran up from behind, hit me, then ran away at top speed. I thought he was a shoplifter,” he said. “But people around me said my T-shirt was torn, and I went to feel with my hand and found that I was bleeding.”
Zoda reportedly told police he bought both the knife and hammer used in the crime from the Ikebukuro branch of Tokyu Hands on Monday. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of the hammer, while a knife with a broken tip was found on the street nearby.
The incident took place roughly 100 meters west of the Tokyu Hands shop.
Zoda first positioned himself close to an escalator near the entrance to Tokyu Hands. He struck his first victim, a man, on the back of the head with the hammer. He then proceeded to stab two other people who were speaking on cellular phones nearby, police said.
He then apparently headed westward, knife in hand, assaulting others as he ran down the street, they said.
Passersby on the street, which is usually crowded with shoppers, panicked, causing mass confusion. Shoppers ran into nearby shops seeking refuge, according to witnesses.
Two men subdued him as he approached the rotary near the east exit of Ikebukuro Station.
“(The suspect) was brandishing the knife as he ran and stabbed a person in front of him. It was really scary,” one of the two men said.
“I cannot believe such an incident happened in the middle of the day,” said a clerk at a nearby sewing machine store, where a few passersby sought shelter.
A pile of blood-soaked tissues used by victims stood outside a nearby camera shop.
“A man with a hammer was stumbling (down the street) and hitting pedestrians one after another,” a female store clerk said. “At first, I had no idea what was going on. But soon I found these people’s clothes were torn and they were bleeding.”
According to the National Police Agency, there have been 50 murders and attempted murders stemming from such arbitrary stabbing incidents since 1989. Suspects have been apprehended in 47 of those cases.
The highest number of cases in a year was recorded in 1996 with 11, followed by 10 in 1998. Three such stabbing incidents had been reported so far this year before Wednesday’s attack, the agency said.