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Suspect in mass murder dreamed of becoming teacher before turning violent

SAGAMIHARA, Kanagawa -- Officials at the residential care facility for intellectually disabled people where former staff member Satoshi Uematsu is suspected of having gone on a killing spree July 26, say that Uematsu was passionate about providing quality care for residents in the beginning, but eventually began to show signs that something was off.

Uematsu started working at Tsukui Yamayuri En in Midori Ward, Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, as a part-time staff member in December 2012. He became a full-time employee there in April 2013.

"Around the fall of 2014, a current staff member came to me for advice concerning (Uematsu's) violent behavior toward facility residents," a 74-year-old former female staff member says.

When Uematsu was found to have visited the official residence of the speaker of the House of Representatives on Feb. 14 and 15 this year with a letter stating that "disabled people should be eliminated," Tsukui Yamayuri En officials immediately held a meeting with Uematsu. This resulted in the facility deciding that Uematsu was "unfit to protect those with disabilities," seeking Uematsu's resignation and receiving it on Feb. 19.

According to those close to the case, from May to June 2011, Uematsu was a student teacher at his alma mater with aspirations of becoming an elementary school teacher. He was there for four weeks, overseeing a class of third graders. He immediately developed a rapport with the students, played dodge ball and soccer with them, and is said to have been well liked. "Uematsu was able to communicate well with the children in conducting lessons," says a teacher in their 40s who supervised Uematsu when he was student teaching. "I'm really shocked (by the latest incident)."

A 27-year-old man who says he was close to Uematsu, having gone to the same elementary and junior high schools, recalls that Uematsu was on the school basketball team in junior high, did well academically, and had a knack for making people laugh. Uematsu went to a private high school in Hachioji, the man says, and had said that he wanted to become a teacher in the future.

However, when Uematsu contacted the man and the two met up in April for the first time in a while, Uematsu launched into a monologue about how people with disabilities were "unnecessary" and "a waste of taxes." Uematsu also appealed to his friend to join him in killing people with disabilities. When the man criticized Uematsu's statements, the man says Uematsu became enraged. Uematsu called the man on July 24, two days before the killings, but the man refused to take the call. "I didn't think he'd actually do it," the man says. "I can't believe it. I think this is an act of terrorism."

The manager of a barbershop that Uematsu had been going to for about the past year and a half says that Uematsu had initially told him about his dream of becoming a teacher at a special education school. But when Uematsu came to the shop in March this year, he suddenly blurted out, "People with severe disabilities who lack the ability to communicate have no reason to live." The manager says he asked, "You'd been saying you wanted to work to help others. When did that change?" to which Uematsu is said to have responded, "Just recently. I received a sign from God."

A tattoo artist in Sagamihara says that about six months ago, he happened to meet Uematsu at the studio of another tattoo artist. Uematsu had gotten tattoos from the other artist, and was working as an apprentice. The man says that after Uematsu resigned from Tsukui Yamayuri En, he frequently heard him talk about killing people with disabilities.

The man says he rebuked Uematsu for his statements, but the latter refused to listen, so the man stopped all communications with him. "I don't know the context in which this incident took place, but it's unacceptable to hurt vulnerable people."

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