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Alleged shinkansen stabber handed to prosecutors after deadly attack

AFP-JIJI, JIJI, Kyodo

The suspect in Saturday’s deadly knife rampage on a Tokaido Shinkansen Line train was handed to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday on suspicion of murder.

The suspect was identified by the Kanagawa Prefectural Police as Ichiro Kojima, a 22-year-old unemployed resident of the city of Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture.

The victim was identified as Kotaro Umeda, a 38-year-old man from Hyogo Prefecture who died trying to stop him.

The apparently random attack took place at around 9:50 p.m. in the 12th car of the Nozomi No. 265 bound for Shin-Osaka Station from Tokyo, which had just departed with 880 passengers aboard.

According to the Kanagawa Prefectural Police, Kojima started by allegedly attacking the woman sitting next to him, before proceeding to attack a woman on the other side of the aisle. Both were described as in their 20s. At some point, Kojima then overpowered and stabbed Umeda, who tried to stop him.

The women received minor injuries to their heads and shoulders, but Umeda, who was slashed mainly in the neck, later died.

The chaos forced the train to make an emergency stop at Odawara Station in Kanagawa Prefecture, where police stormed the carriage and subdued the suspect.

Kojima had two knives in his possession when he was apprehended. He is believed to have brought them aboard in a backpack.

Under questioning, Kojima admitted to the allegations, saying he attacked the people because he was feeling frustrated and that the victims were chosen at random, according to the Kanagawa police.

Kojima said he did not know any of the three victims.

Afterward, witnesses said some of the passengers were crying as they fled to the other coaches, shouting “Just keep going ahead,” and “He has a knife!”

Some were carrying seat cushions to protect themselves.

“Everyone fled and fell like one domino after another. I was scared to death,” one female passenger told NHK:

A passenger eventually called the police, saying there was a knife-wielding person on board and that people were bleeding.

The attack took place in car No. 12 of the 16-car train while it was between Shin-Yokohama and Odawara stations, both in Kanagawa. The suspect is believed to have boarded at Tokyo Station and had a ticket valid for travel to Nagoya Station.

The suspect left home in Okazaki last December, according to his 81-year-old grandmother, who lived with him.

According to his grandmother, Kojima used to live with his family in Ichinomiya, in Aichi but quit his junior high school because he had been bullied. He left home when he was 14 and attended a night high school from a self-support facility.

He started living with his grandmother after he graduated from high school.

After being hospitalized for an undisclosed mental illness, he started working for a machinery maintenance firm in April 2015 but quit in February the following year.

After he started living with his grandmother, she said he mainly stayed home, reading books and surfing the internet.

About six months ago, however, he moved out, saying he was going on a trip.

“I have been always worried about him,” his grandmother said in a telephone interview early Sunday. She had called his mobile phone several times recently but was unable to talk with Kojima directly.

The stabbing is the second notable incident to take place on a bullet train in recent years.

In June 2015, a 71-year-old man committed suicide by self-immolation on a westbound Nozomi train, setting himself ablaze while it was on the same Shin-Yokohama-Odawara segment.

A female passenger, aged 52, also died in the fiery fracas.

Afterward, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) announced it would move up its plan to install more security cameras in bullet trains. Luggage checks for bullet train passengers are considered impossible, given the huge numbers of people who use them.

According to JR Tokai, an average of 446,000 passengers rode the Tokaido Shinkansen Line trains each day in fiscal 2015.