• Kyodo

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About 4,000 police officers continued the hunt Wednesday for an alleged rapist who escaped from the prosecutor’s office in Kawasaki the previous day.

Yuta Sugimoto, 20, of Tama Ward in Kawasaki, has been placed on the national wanted list. He was arrested Monday on suspicion, along with another man, of violently robbing a woman in the city’s Asao Ward after having confined her for a couple of hours in a car on Jan. 2. They allegedly took ¥150,000 in cash from the woman. Sugimoto was arrested on suspicion of robbery, confinement and sexual assault.

According to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police, Sugimoto bolted from an interrogation room on the sixth floor of the Kawasaki branch of the Yokohama District Prosecutor’s Office at around 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Police said a witness saw Sugimoto with his friend in Kawasaki on Wednesday. Other media reports said he is likely to be using a white motor scooter provided by his friend.

Police have tightened security at schools in Kawasaki, where pupils arrived Wednesday morning in groups. Police and teachers were alerting children at Miyamae Elementary School adjacent to the prosecutor’s office who arrived at school before 8 a.m.

Police found the sweatshirt Sugimoto was wearing during the interrogation Tuesday in the garden of a house about 100 meters from the prosecutors’ office. They speculate that Sugimoto changed clothes while on the run.

“I’m really worried and I try to make sure all the doors and windows are locked more than usual,” said a man in his 40s, who took his two sons to school before heading to work. “I don’t want (the kids) to go outside in the evening.”

Meanwhile, a woman in her 20s who dropped her daughter off to a nearby kindergarten expressed anxiety, saying: “How long is this uncertainty going to last?”

The police carried out the manhunt using about 900 patrol cars, helicopters and boats.

Police described Sugimoto as an unemployed man about 167 cm tall and weighing about 64 kg. During questioning, he was wearing a white sweatshirt and navy blue sweatpants. Sugimoto fled in his socks, leaving behind his sandals in the interrogation room, police said.

Sugimoto reportedly removed a rope tied around his waist, pushed aside a senior officer in his 50s attending the interrogation and fled in the direction of the Tama River. Police said the rope had been loosened by the officer for a toilet break and speculated it might have been retied too loosely.

According to the police, Sugimoto claimed the rope was too loose and made his move when the senior officer stood behind him to check. He was meeting a lawyer when he escaped.

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