WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
In Midori Ward, Sahamihara, Kanagawa, Japan on July 26, 2016, 19 people were killed, 13 were severely injured and another 13 were hurt in a stabbing attack at a care home for disabled people.
After the stabbing the suspect, Satoshi Uematsu, who was a former employee of the facility, surrendered with his bag of knives at the local police station. The motive was determined to be a hate crime against the disabled.
The attack has been described as one of the worst crimes in modern Japanese history.
THE ATTACK (1)
The residential center, Tsukui Lily Garden, is a social welfare organization that was established by the local government. It covers 30,890 square meters (or 7.63 acres) of woodland along the river and housed about 149 residents between the ages of 19 and 75. All of the residents had some sort of intellectual disability, but many has physical disabilities, as well. Some of the residents were bedridden, while some were able to engage in physical activity.
At about 2:10 AM, Uematsu used a hammer to break into the care center, his old job, through a glass window. He was able to access keys to the rest of the facility when he tied up a staff member and stole them. Then, using the keys, he went room to room stabbing victims in the neck while they slept.
Police were not notified of the attack until 30 minutes later, and still had not arrived on the scene until 50 minutes later, after Uematsu had already completed his carnage and left the facility.
Armed police officers finally entered the building at 3:00, an hour after he had first arrived, where they came upon the horrific crime scene. 29 ambulances were sent to the facility to manage the dead and injured victims. In total, 10 women and 9 men, ages 18 to 70, were killed.
Hours later, Uematsu turned himself in at the police station, bringing along his bag of bloodstained knives and tools. More knives were found in his car outside of the station.
THE PERPETRATOR AND LEGAL PROCEEDINGS (1)
Satoshi Uematsu was born in 1990. He was aged 26 at the time of the crime, and used to work at the care facility. His father was an elementary school art teacher, and Uematsu worked as an elementary school, himself. He lived in his parent's house, but they had moved away sometime before the murders, and he lived there alone. He stopped his work with the facility in February of 2016, a few months before the attacks, after working there for over 3 years.
Neighbors claimed that they were surprised that he committed the murders, as he was typically friendly and a generally good person. Though, some had said his demeanor had slowly started to change during his employment at the facility.
In February, he had attempted to hand-deliver a note to the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Japan at his home, but because of security reasons, was prevented from doing so. He had appealed for the legalization of ending the lives of those with multiple disabilities in cases where their guardians agreed. He wrote, "I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities." He claimed that the deaths of the disabled would be a benefit to Japan and for world peace, and would benefit the global economy and even prevent World War III.
In his letter, he detailed and offer to target 2 facilities housing disabled people, and even appealed for certain conditions in exchange for carrying out the act. He said he could kill between 260-460 people, and that staff would be tied up so that they would not interfere, but also would not be harmed. He said it would be quick, and after, he would turn himself in. He signed his name and then included his address, phone number, and the name of his employer.
The letter was handed over to Tokyo police, who contacted the Sagamihara police. During this time, he was posting on Twitter that he expected to be arrested at some point, and tweeted about Japan being ravaged by radiation poisoning and AIDS.
He was arrested, detained and questioned once the Sagamihara police received the letter, but after that, and a 2 week involuntary hold in a psychiatric hospital, he was released. Doctors deemed that he was not a threat.
In his statements after turning himself in for the crimes, he said that he was "saving from unhappiness" for the severely disabled, and those who were "burdened" with helping them and maintaining their lives.
Uematsu was found mentally competent to stand trial in February of 2017. On February 24, 2019, he was charged with 19 counts of murder, 24 counts of attempted murder, 2 counts of illegal confinement causing injury, 3 counts of illegal confinement, 1 count of unlawful entry, and 1 count of violating the swords and firearms control law.
His defense team had planned to argue that, due to the effects of marijuana, he was mentally incompetent during the time of the crime. On January 8, 2020, citing this, he pleaded not guilty. On March 16, 2020, Uematsu was sentenced to death for the murders.
THE VICTIMS (2)
I was not able to find a list of all of the 19 people who were killed in this senseless attack, but I was able to find some of the statements family members made during the trial of their loved one's killer.
Oe mother said her daughter was "irreplaceable" through tears, as she and other family members demanded justice for their loved ones. One brother, who was 86 when his 70-year-old sister killed, said he visited her every month and they would hold hands and walk together. They would stay together until the final minutes of visiting hours.
A 43-year-old man was killed, having been diagnosed with brain paralysis at age 1. His mother visited him once a month. Despite her financial troubles, she would spoil him when she visited.
Another mother reminisced on visiting her 40-year-old daughter at the facility. Her smiling photos were shown in court, because she wanted her killer to see the life that he robbed. She wanted him to understand the importance of the 19 people's lives.
These are just a few of the heartbroken people who's lives were turned upside down, their hearts shattered, by what Uematsu did. Certainly, caring for these people may have been hard, but they were anything but burdens. They were loved. They were important. Like all of us, their faces lit up when someone they loved came to visit, and they tried to squeeze all of the time out of them that they could. They were more than their disabilities, and they deserved more than to die because of them.
People with disabilities are a minority group who aren't talked about as much as others. We understand and condemn racism, we understand the gaps between men and women, we know that LGBTQ+ people are discriminated against... but disabled people are sometimes pushed to the wayside. There are no ifs, ands or buts: disabled people are discriminated against. Whether through microaggressions about their disabilities, public areas not being accessible to them, or as far as people genuinely believing the world would be a better place if they were eradicated, disabled people are treated differently throughout the world.
In so many other areas, we focus on celebrating diversity. Having people of all races, genders and sexual orientations at the table is key, but we often leave out space for the disabled. Perhaps we pity the mom with the autistic son, refuse to put our money to accessible public spaces, or think about how terrible it would be to have such a disability, or care for someone with it. But disabled people are people, too. Their opinions and lives matter just as much as everyone else's.
Euthanasia is a very controversial topic, and I certainly believe it has its place in healthcare in specific situations. But to take it upon yourself to assume certain people would want to die, or that their guardians would be relieved by their deaths, and to go in and murder 19 people simply because you believe the world (and their world, and the world's of those around them) would be better off for it is horrific and ableist and monstrous in every single way. It isn't euthanasia, it is murder. Point blank, period.
Like all mass murderers, Satoshi Uematsu made a decision, one he was not meant to make, about who got to live and who got to die. Just because he had reasoning behind it doesn't make it better in any way. And whether or not you believe in the death penalty, it should bring you some relief to know he will never be able to hurt anyone he doesn't agree with again.