YOKOHAMA – The knife-wielding attacker who slit the throats of dozens of residents at a care home for people with disabilities on Tuesday cited a belief in the ideology of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during a brief period of hospitalization in February. He was so persistent in his threats that the facility installed extra security and kept in close contact with police.
A disabled people’s lobby group has said the slaughter by suspect Satoshi Uematsu, 26, smacked of eugenics and came amid a background of hate speech, including against people with disabilities. The Japan National Assembly of Disabled Peoples’ International said Japan needs to do more to create a fully inclusive society.
The slew of warning signs led some to question whether officials should have done more to prevent the attack.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with ministers Thursday and ordered a thorough investigation.
“It’s an incident that should not have happened,” he said. “I will not tolerate it.”
In other developments, the suspect was revealed to have begun his attack in a section staffed by female personnel, binding several staffers with zip ties before going room to room hacking residents to death.
He attacked 45 people, killing 19, in Japan’s worst postwar mass killing.
Officials from the city of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, said the Nazi references came when Uematsu, a former longtime worker at the facility, was hospitalized briefly this year.
He said he had been attracted to the philosophy of the Nazi ideologue, whose eugenics ideal included the extermination of people with disabilities.
“Hitler’s philosophy dawned on me two weeks ago,” Uematsu said on Feb. 20, according to a city official.
A day earlier, Uematsu told a Sagamihara city official that he was a follower of freemasonry. This and other recent behavior had prompted city officials to admit him to the hospital.
“There are 800 million people with disabilities worldwide,” Uematsu told the official. “Money is spent on them. It should be used for other purposes.”
The statements were seen as revealing Uematsu’s darker side and spooked people so much that staff at the care home stepped up vigilance in the months that followed.
On Wednesday, executives of Kanagawa Kyodokai, which operates the facility, said the care home installed 16 security cameras on the advice of police and kept in consultation with officers.
So close was that contact, the executives said, that police came to understand that when an emergency call came it would be to do with Uematsu. Officers at Tsukui Police Station registered the facility’s phone number and the cellphone of the security guard, so that whoever took the call would know immediately what was up.
The advice police gave was not to let Uematsu inside, and that staff should call as soon as he showed up.
For example, workers were particularly on edge during a local summer festival on June 4.
“Because he used to be in charge of the event, we were concerned that he might show up,” said Kaoru Irikura, who heads the care facility. “I gave firm instructions to staffers to report it immediately if he dropped by.”
Staff spent the day patrolling the venue to make sure Uematsu was not about. Since he lived nearby, the facility began assigning additional members of staff to accompany residents when they were out for a walk.
However, care home managers were not informed about the content of a letter that Uematsu had sent to the Lower House speaker in February, in which he said he planned to attack the facility and kill people.
“We wanted to prevent him from entering the facility. We didn’t think there was imminent threat,” said Miki Akagawa, a Kanagawa Kyodokai official.
Meanwhile, further details have been emerging of the bloody ordeal that unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday.
Investigative sources said Thursday that Uematsu broke into the complex by forcing his way into a women-only area, most likely picking an entry point where he expected to meet less resistance, police and prefectural sources said.
There were 20 residents in the section, the building’s east wing. He killed five of them.
A senior official at the prefectural government said Uematsu must have known there were only women in that unit and that it would be easy for him to enter. All staff in that section were also female.
He is suspected of slashing the residents there and then moving to the west wing, going upstairs to the second floor before escaping from the complex via its administrative wing.
At least five facility workers were tied up in the attack, staff said.
Security camera records show the suspected attacker leaving the facility at around 2:47 a.m. Tuesday. Uematsu turned himself into police shortly after 3 a.m.
Uematsu got a job at the care home as a temporary worker in December 2012 and went full time the following April.
It was not until Feb. 18 this year that he astonished co-workers by saying he thought all disabled people should be killed — and quit the following day.
On the day he ended work, the Sagamihara city government decided to commit Uematsu to a mental hospital out of concern that he could harm others.
He tested positive for marijuana and was diagnosed as suffering from a psychiatric illness exacerbated by the drug but was discharged about two weeks later as his condition was judged to have improved.
Following the incident, police raided Uematsu’s home and found small bags carrying plant matter, possibly marijuana, the sources said. Investigators have taken urine from the suspect for a drug test.
The massacre has sparked outrage among groups representing disabled people.
The Japan National Assembly of Disabled Peoples’ International said Wednesday it suspects the murder “was nothing but an act based on eugenics, which sees disabled people as those who should not exist.”
Vowing to fight such ideas with “strong anger and deep sorrow,” the group added that the murders occurred against a backdrop of hate speech and hate crimes against minorities, including the disabled.
“We need to work toward creating an inclusive society in which no one will be excluded,” the group said.