Osaka arson suspect allegedly prevented victims from escaping

The Yomiuri Shimbun

OSAKA — The suspect in a deadly arson attack at a clinic in Kita Ward, Osaka City, allegedly barricaded people in an area in the rear of the clinic that had no emergency exit after starting the fire, according to the Osaka prefectural police, who have analyzed security camera footage from the scene.

Suspect Morio Tanimoto, 61, was found lying in front of a closed door that connected the waiting area to the rear of the clinic.

The prefectural police believe Tanimoto wanted to kill as many people as possible by confining his victims in the rear area.

According to the police, Tanimoto entered the clinic at around 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 17 carrying two paper shopping bags with plastic containers holding gasoline.

He allegedly knocked over one of the bags near the reception desk, spreading gasoline on the waiting room floor, and ignited the fuel with a lighter. The police say he then knocked over the other bag near a door leading to the fire escape, causing the fire to spread.

Many of the people in the waiting room fled to rooms in the rear of the clinic that had no windows or emergency exits. Tanimoto allegedly pushed back people who tried to return to the waiting room to get to the exit.

The suspect closed a door that connected the waiting area to the rooms in the rear, trapping 26 people, all of whom were found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest after the fire had been brought under control.

At the scene, investigators found a knife and the lighter that they think Tanimoto used to start the fire. They also found two pepper sprays in a pocket of his clothing.

Among the 25 people who died in the attack, including the clinic’s 49-year-old director Kotaro Nishizawa, 24 people died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

A woman who was taken to the hospital in cardiopulmonary arrest remains in serious condition.

Tanimoto is also in hospital in serious condition due to carbon monoxide poisoning.