Shinji Aoba is suspected of starting the fire that killed 33 people and injured dozens more at Kyoto Animation aka KyoAni in Japan on July 18. There were around 70 people inside of the building at the time of the fire. The Kyoto offices are located in a residential area in the city of Kyoto, which is 30 miles north of Osaka.
Aoba was initially apprehended by a Kyoto employee and later taken into custody by police who had arrived on the scene. The suspect suffered burns to his face, chest and legs. Reports from Japan says that Aoba has yet to be questioned by investigators as he is under sedation at a hospital. NHK in Japan reports that Aoba admitted to starting to fire when he was first taken into custody.
Witnesses allege that as Aoba sprayed flammable liquid around the Kyoto offices, he yelled, “You die!” The incident is one of the worst mass killings in Japanese history.
None of the victims of the tragedy have been officially identified at the time writing. Among those missing is famed animator Yasuhiro Takemoto.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Aoba Allegedly Said of Kyoto Animation: ‘They Are Always Stealing. It’s Their Fault’
Witnesses told BBC News that Aoba could be heard complaining that Kyoto had stolen and plagiarized his novel prior to allegedly setting the fire. Officials in Japan have not definitively stated what they believe Aoba’s motive was. In the weeks leading up to the fire, the company’s president said that threatening letters had been received at their offices.
The BBC report says that Aoba had been splashing the flammable liquid out of a bucket. The network’s reporter said that CCTV video reviewed by police showed Aoba, clad in a red t-shirt and jeans, at a nearby gas station filling up buckets with gasoline. Aoba used a multipurpose lighter to ignite the gasoline.
A 61-year-old woman who lived close to Kyoto Animation told Asahi Shimbun, a local newspaper, that she mistook Aoba for a victim of the fire when he landed on her lawn. The woman said that Aoba’s leg was on fire and his hair was singed. When she asked if he was okay, the suspect did not respond. The woman then says she sprayed water from a hose on Aoba.
The woman said that police then descended on Aoba who began asking why he had set the fire. “They ripped me off” was what the woman said she heard Aoba said. Later, she told reporters, “(He) seemed to be discontented, he seemed to get angry, shouting something about how he had been plagiarised.”
The Associated Press reports that Aoba told police at the time of his initial arrest, “They are always stealing. It’s their fault.”
2. Aoba Was Accused of Robbing a Convenience Store With a Knife in 2012
In 2012, Aoba was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after he was found guilty of attempting to rob a convenience store with a knife. The store was located east of Tokyo. That report, from NHK, adds that Aoba was believed to have suffered from mental problems.
Kyodo News reports that Aoba was accused of stealing less than $200 from the store. At that time, Aoba was living in the city of Joso. He was released in January 2016.
Reuters reports that following his release, Aoba lived for a time at housing unit for ex-convicts. That report notes that Aoba’s current occupation is unknown.
3. Aoba’s Neighbors Made Complaints About Him in 2018
In a separate report, NHK spoke to one of Aoba’s neighbors who said that he lived in the apartment next to the suspect in Saitama City, north of Tokyo. Kyodo News reports that Aoba is thought to have made the 300-mile journey from Saitama to Kyoto by train.
The neighbor, who is in his 40s, told the network that the police were called to Aoba’s apartment multiple times in the summer of 2018 over his playing of loud music. The neighbor said that besides that, there were no further complaints and the neighbor said he knew very little about Aoba.
The Associated Press reports that when another neighbor attempted to get Aoba to stop banging on walls, the neighbor says Aoba told him, “I will kill you.” The neighbor alleges that Aoba grabbed him by the hair while making the threat. According to Mainichi, Aoba also told the neighbor, “Shut up. I’ll kill you. I’ve got enough on my own plate.” Another neighbor said that Aoba accused the neighbor of making loud noises, something the neighbor denies.
4. Multiple Unused Knives Were Also Found at the Scene
The initial reports from Japan said that multiple knives and hammers, believed to have belonged to the suspect, were found at the scene of the fire. Those knives were unused. The Associated Press reports that police took a knapsack, knives and buckets from the scene.
The fire broke out inside of the building at around 10:30 a.m. local time and was not extinguished until five hours later.
One witness told Asahi Shimbun that she saw people jumping from the windows of the building to escape the fire. That woman was quoted as saying, “It was like I was looking at hell.” Many of the victims were found close to a stairwell that led to the roof of the building. That stairwell had collapsed as they belive the victims had attempted to get to the roof.
Speaking to Reuters, a fire official said that the was no indoor fire hydrant or sprinkler system inside the building, which is not part of Japan’s fire code.
5. A GoFundMe Page for the Victims Surpassed its Goal Within 24 Hours
Anime licensor Sentai Filmworks started a GoFundMe page for the victims of the Kyoto fire in the wake of the massacre. The initial goal of the page was $750,000. At the time of writing, the page has raised more than $1.4 million. The description on that page referred to Kyoto Animation as “true masters of their art and one of Japan’s national treasures.” While photos and videos circulated showing employees and fans of Kyoto’s work turning the outside of the charred building into a shrine for those who lost their lives.
Among those paying tribute to Kyoto was Apple CEO Tim Cook who tweeted, “Kyoto Animation is home to some of the world’s most talented animators and dreamers — the devastating attack today is a tragedy felt far beyond Japan. KyoAni artists spread joy all over the world and across generations with their masterpieces.”