Kyoto Animation Arson Suspect Arrested

Last July, there was an arson attack on Kyoto Animation’s studio, which resulted in the death of 36 people, with another 33 injured. Today, the suspect in the case was arrested.

Aoba Shinji, 42, of Saitama City, was arrested after being judged to have sufficiently recovered from life-threatening burns that occured during his crime.

Aoba confessed to setting the studio on fire with gasoline. Police reported that he was quoted as saying there was “no mistake” in the allegations against him. “I thought I could kill many people by using gasoline,” Aoba said. He has not apologized for his actions or expressed remorse.

Police quoted Aoba as saying he had a “grudge” against Kyoto Animation. The investigation into the motive for his crime will continue.

In January, the police planned to arrest the bedridden Aoba, but this was canceled due to the spread of coronavirus and his unstable health. In April, it was confirmed that eight officers at the Osaka Detention House, where Aoba is now being held, had contracted the virus.

After being arrested at a Kyoto hospital, Aoba was transferred to a police station. He wore a mask and was lying on a stretcher during the transfer, but serious burn marks could still be seen on his face and arms.

The police believe Aoba’s condition has now stabilized enough for him to be held in custody. They have prepared medical facilities at the detention house though. When asked about the timing of the arrest, Kawase Toshiyuki, head of the Kyoto prefectural police’s first investigation division, said, “His condition is improving and there is a risk of escape or destruction of evidence.”

However, some legal experts question the necessity of arresting a suspect who cannot move around by himself. Watanabe Osamu, a criminal procedure law professor at Konan Law School in Hyogo Prefecture, said, “(The police) should have paid attention to human rights and questioned him on a voluntary basis in the presence of a doctor and lawyer, rather than improving the detention facility for his arrest.”

A statement from Kyoto Animation in response to Aoba’s read, “We have nothing to say to the suspect…Our fellow workers whose lives were lost will never come back and the wounds of our colleagues will never be healed.” The company said it expects Aoba to face “maximum criminal responsibility.”

The victims’ families hope that investigators will find the motive for the attack.

When police detained Aoba last year, he said he carried out the attack because Kyoto Animation “stole a novel” from him. Kyoto Animation has held public contests in which it accepts draft novels and then makes the winning works into anime. The company said that someone with the same name as Aoba submitted one; however, they have denied basing any of its anime on his novel.

Timeline of events:

July 18, 2019: Fire starts at studio of Kyoto Animation. Immediately after, police apprehend Shinji Aoba. Local fire department confirms the deaths of 33.

July 19: Police identify suspect as Aoba. Death toll increases to 34.

July 20: Police obtain arrest warrant for Aoba for murder, arson and trespassing. Suffering severe burns, Aoba is transferred from hospital in Kyoto to another hospital in Osaka.

July 26: Police search Aoba’s apartment room in Saitama city, near Tokyo. Police confiscate items including his smartphone and Kyoto Animation products.

July 27: Death toll increases to 35.

August 2: Police announce names of 10 victims.

August 27: Police name 25 other victims.

October 4: Death toll increases to 36.

October 11: Police reveal name of the 36th victim.

November 8: Police question Aoba for the first time.

November 14: Aoba is transferred to hospital in Kyoto city.

May 27, 2020: Aoba is arrested on suspicion of murder and other offenses.