• Kyodo


The Kyoto Prefectural Police are expected to take action against eight of their colleagues for allegedly covering up the case of a man who froze to death while he was in their care in 1997, police sources said Saturday.

The eight include officials, administrators and a former police station chief.

The then head of the Kujo Police Station and other employees are suspected of having forged a document in which officers are said to have helped a drunken man on Jan. 16, 1997. Actually, sources say, the man had been left lying outdoors in the grounds of the police station.

Investigation papers on the eight are to be sent to prosecutors as early as next month.

According to the prefectural police, an officer at the Kujo Police Station found the man, in his 50s, drunk and requiring help on a street in Kyoto’s Minami Ward at around 8:50 a.m. that day.

The officer took the man to the police station, but officials noticed something was wrong with the man five hours later. They then took him to a nearby hospital where he died shortly afterward.

The official autopsy concluded that the man had probably frozen to death. But the then chief of the Kujo station, whose name is being withheld, and the other officials told the prefectural police department that they had put the sleeping man in the rear seat of a patrol car and looked after him.

Last fall, however, a whistle-blower prompted the prefectural police to reinvestigate the case. The police inspection office later discovered that the man had actually been left lying on the concrete floor of a partially roofed garage on the police station grounds.

The inspection office has not been able to confirm that the man died as a result of having been left outdoors unattended, according to the sources.

The prefectural police suspect that top-level Kujo station officials colluded in the coverup. The former station chief was originally scheduled to retire in November, but his retirement has been put on hold pending the reinvestigation.

Senior officials of the prefectural police headquarters who were in supervisory positions at the time of the incident will also face punishment, they said.

The Kyoto police plan to send investigation papers to prosecutors on four of the Kujo station officials directly responsible for the handling of the man. The four will be investigated on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death, the sources said. The statute of limitations on that count, however, expired in January 2002.

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