Shinji Aoba: What we know about the Kyoto Animation arson attack suspect

Shinji Aoba
Shinji Aoba is the KyoAni fire supsect. Pic credit: ANN TV

Shinji Aoba has been identified as the man suspected of setting Kyoto Animation studio on fire on Thursday morning. Japanese officials confirmed that 33 people died and more than 36 were injured, with 10 of the injured in critical condition at the hospital.

Most of those who died in the fire were believed to have been killed by carbon dioxide inhalation, Reuters reported.

According to eyewitnesses, Aoba, looking angry and agitated, broke into KyoAni studio in the Uji suburb of Kyoto Prefecture on Thursday morning, doused the building with flammable liquid, and yelled “die!” as he ignited the liquid, believed to be gasoline.

Police arrested the suspected arsonist, who suffered burns to his face, chest, and legs, during the arson attack,  and took him to the hospital.

He was reportedly apprehended by some employees of Kyoto Animation who pursued him after he escaped from the building.

Aoba reportedly admitted to police officers, after he was arrested, that he started the fire.

As at the time of writing, the Japanese authorities have not released an official list of the KyoAni employees who died in the fire attack, but reports that the legendary studio director Yasuhiro Takemoto is missing has led to speculation that he is one of the victims of the arson attack, which is being described as one of the worst mass killings in Japan’s history.

Shinji Aoba alleged that KyoAni plagiarized his work

Surveillance camera images obtained by Japanese police reportedly showed Aoba, dressed in jeans and red t-shirt, filling 20-liter containers with gasoline at a nearby gas station before proceeding to Kyoto Animation building.

Witnesses said that before he set fire on the building, he was heard grumbling about how Kyoto stole his novel story. Some witnesses claimed to have heard him complain that KyoAni was “always stealing.”

Witnesses saw him dumping gasoline from a bucket and using a lighter to ignite it. His clothes caught fire as he escaped from the building.

An elderly woman said she thought Aoba was one of the KyoAni employees who escaped from the building when she saw him with flames on his clothes, burns on his legs, and singed hair. She helped him put out the fire with her garden hose.

But when police arrested him, he admitted that he started the fire, and when asked why he set the building on fire, he said KyoAni stole his novel.

The elderly woman said she heard him accuse KyoAni of ripping him off.

The woman said that Aoba appeared angry and upset, and accused KyoAni of plagiarizing his work.

Aoba had previous brushes with the law

Aoba was found guilty of stealing $200 from a store in Tokyo while armed with a knife. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in 2012 and released early in 2016.

He was believed to be mentally ill

After his release from prison he was determined to be mentally ill and was enrolled in a government welfare program for ex-convicts and housed in a unit for ex-convicts.

His occupation at the time he committed the arson was unknown but he was believed to be living on government support.

He lived in the Saitama suburb of Tokyo, about 300 miles east of Kyoto, and traveled to Kyoto by train to commit the arson on Thursday.

His neighbors in Saitama said they did not know much about him. Some had complained to the police in the past when he played loud music in his apartment. One neighbor told the Associated Press (AP) that Aoba would sometimes bang on the wall.

A neighbor alleged that when he told Aoba to stop banging on the wall, Aoba grabbed him and threatened to kill him.

Aoba is currently hospitalized and under sedation as a result of his own injuries. Police plan to interrogate him once he is in stable condition and is able to answer questions.

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