TOKYO (TR) – A court here has handed a 23-year-old man an 18-year prison term for injuring eight persons by ramming his vehicle into a crowded shopping street in Shibuya Ward two years ago, reports TBS News (March 17).
At the Tokyo District Court on March 17, presiding judge Kenichi Nagafuchi described the actions of Kazuhiro Kusakabe being “highly planned and without concern for human life.”
On New Year’s Day in 2019, Kusakabe plowed the vehicle he was driving into a crowd of pedestrians on Takeshita-dori in the Harajuku district. The incident caused major and minor injuries to a total of eight people.
Kusakabe was on trial for attempted murder and other crimes. The prosecution had sought a 20-year term.
New Year’s Day holiday
Takeshita-dori is usually jammed with shoppers on weekends. At the time of the incident, the street was closed to vehicles due to the New Year’s Day holiday, during which time large crowds arrive at nearby Meiji Shrine.
After police apprehended Kusakabe on the day of the incident, he said that he had rented the vehicle in Osaka Prefecture and arrived in the capital the day before.
“I came to Tokyo to go on a rampage. I continued to press the accelerator [in ramming into the crowd],” the suspect was quoted. “[It was] in retaliation for capital punishment,” he added without elaborating.
In carrying out the act, Kusakabe drove from Meiji-dori onto Takeshita-dori. Over a distance of about 140 meters, he struck the eight victims before ramming a building.
An examination of the vehicle revealed a 20-liter plastic container of kerosene and a high-pressure sprayer in the back seat. During questioning, Kusakabe also said that he planned to set the vehicle on fire.
“I did not intend to kill”
During the trial, the defendant said, “I did not intend to kill.” The defense said that he acted “due to the influence of schizophrenia.”
The court, however, ruled that the effect of disorder was limited. “The crime was carried out in a normal mental state,” judge Nagafuchi said.