A man dressed as the Joker injured 17 people in a knife and arson attack on a Tokyo subway train on Halloween night, in one of several mass attacks that shocked Japan in recent months.
Japanese police on Sunday night arrested Kyota Hattori, a 24-year-old man suspected of carrying out the assault. According to reports from Japanese broadcaster NHK, Hattori stabbed a 72-year-old passenger on a train heading toward the busy Shinjuku station before using lighter fluid to set fire inside a train car. The victim is now in critical condition.
At least 16 other passengers, one of them a middle schooler, sustained minor injuries—including inhaling smoke and eye pain—from the fire, which prompted panicked train passengers to flee for their lives.
“The only thing we could do was run away, which was very scary,” Shunsuke Kimura, who was a passenger on that train, told VICE World News. “At first, none of the passengers or I knew what was happening.”
“The sarin gas attack carried out by Aum Shinrikyo also came to mind, and that was frightening,” he said, referring to the notorious terror attack carried out by the cult Aum Shinrikyo in March 1995 that killed 14 and injured more than 6,000.
The Sunday assault followed two attacks in the Tokyo subway system since August, including a mass stabbing that Hattori reportedly copied.
Japanese police say they are still investigating Hattori’s motives, but reported details and footage of the immediate aftermath of the attack have painted a disturbing picture.
Hattori told police he adored the Joker character, according to Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun.
In a viral video apparently filmed after passengers fled the train, Hattori is seen casually smoking a cigarette with his legs crossed while seated inside an empty train car. He wore a green shirt and a checkered tie under a deep purple suit—an outfit that resembles the Joker’s in The Dark Knight. He stayed on the train until police arrived and arrested him.
He allegedly wanted to “commit mass murder” on Halloween because his “work and friendships weren’t going well,” Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported, citing investigators.
“I couldn’t die by myself, so I wanted to kill two or more people and get the death penalty,” Hattori reportedly said.
In response to the latest attack, Japan’s transport authority requested nationwide railroad operators to strengthen their vigilance against future crimes with patrols.
Chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno called the attack “an extremely heinous and malicious incident,” Mainichi Shimbun reported.
The case is being investigated as attempted murder. If found guilty, Hattori could face up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.