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19 killed, 26 injured in Sagamihara stabbing rampage

Tsukui Yamayuri En, where a deadly stabbing attack occurred, is pictured in this photo taken from a Mainichi helicopter in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on the morning of July 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- A man has been arrested after allegedly killing 19 residents at a care facility for the intellectually disabled and injuring 26 others, some seriously, during a stabbing rampage in the early hours of July 26, police said.

Satoshi Uematsu, 26, was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder and trespassing after turning himself in to police. Police are poised to upgrade the attempted murder charges to murder.

The incident is believed to be one of the worst stabbing cases since the end of World War II in terms of the number of victims. Investigators are questioning the suspect over the motives behind his alleged crime.

At around 2:45 a.m., police received an emergency call from a worker at Tsukui Yamayuri En (Tsukui Lily Garden), reporting that a knife-wielding man had gone on a rampage. Nineteen people -- 10 women and nine men -- were confirmed dead, and 26 others -- 21 men and five women -- were injured and transported to six medical institutions. Twenty of those injured are reportedly in serious condition. One of the injured people is a female worker at the facility.

At around 3 a.m., Uematsu turned himself in to Tsukui Police Station in Sagamihara after driving his car there and confessed that he attacked residents of Tsukui Yamayuri En.

"I certainly did it," Uematsu was quoted as telling investigators. "I thought handicapped people should disappear." He claimed he used to work at the facility.

At the time, he was carrying a bag containing three knives, some of them stained with blood.

According to police and the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, a window of one of the buildings that accommodate residents was found broken and a hammer was discovered nearby, leading police to believe that the suspect sneaked into the facility through that window. There also are reports that some staff members had been tied with something to render them immobile. Eight care staff, plus a part-time guard, were working at the facility at the time of the incident. As a rule, the residents' rooms were kept unlocked.

Uematsu began to work at the facility as a part-timer in December 2012, and got a permanent position in April 2013. However, he stepped down on Feb. 19 this year due to "personal reasons," according to the Kanagawa Prefectural Public Health and Welfare Office.

Some 149 intellectually disabled people between the ages of 19 and 75 lived at the residential care facility as of July 1 this year, prefectural officials said.

The residents live in eight single-gender "units" in the dormitories, and staff members assist them with meals, bathing and using the toilet.

As of July 1, 164 full-time employees were working at the facility, which has a maximum capacity of 160 residents, including 10 short-term residents.

The care home stands on a land plot about 30,890 square meters in Midori Ward, Sagamihara, close to Lake Sagami.

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