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A 34-year-old man was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday for fatally stabbing the manager of a convenience store in JR Tokyo Station after the victim chased him down for shoplifting.

The Tokyo District Court ruled that Hidekazu Omori, a former plumber, had clearly intended to kill Masahiko Okeda, 33, manager of the Sandynu Tokyo Center convenience store.

Presiding Judge Manabu Yamazaki said, “There are no extenuating circumstances for the defendant, who, while leading a derelict life of gambling and shoplifting food, considered his safety and freedom above another’s life.”

Prosecutors had demanded a life sentence for Omori, citing his definite intent to kill Okeda, as was seen in the way he held the knife with the blade pointing directly toward Okeda, and by the power of the thrust, which pierced Okeda’s leather belt.

Omori’s lawyers claimed, however, that he had no intention of killing Okeda but had merely panicked due to the victim’s persistent chase, stating that while he has owned up to all of the facts and events of what happened on that day, he said he does not remember any details of the attack itself.

The court ruled in favor of a limited prison term, citing the fact that Omori had turned himself in to police three days after the incident.

The court felt that Omori had, as such, assisted the investigation.

It acknowledged, however, that police had leads and a description that would probably have led to Omori’s arrest anyway.

Omori was hungry and carrying a little more than 2,000 yen when he stole 550 yen worth of food — two slices of bread, a rice ball and a drink — from the store at around 6.50 a.m. July 21, the court said, adding that the defendant had shoplifted there before.

Okeda, witnessing the theft, chased Omori, caught him and tried to lead him back to the store by the hair, intending to demand that he pay for the items in the back office.

Omori, after several attempts, shook off the manager’s hold and tried to run away, and stabbed him when he saw that Okeda was not going to give up the chase.

In August 2001, Omori was arrested for stealing a car in Kawasaki, and received a suspended prison sentence. He testified that he was desperate to flee from the manager, as he thought he would be jailed if he was arrested for another crime.

After the court issued its verdict, Seijun Omori, the victim’s 59-year-old father, declared that no ruling would have brought his son back to life.

“I only wish we can learn from the lessons left by my son’s actions,” he said. “My son acted for the safety of the society, and he taught us to work together to create a better society.”

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