Man fatally stabs neighbors escaping fire, five dead
The 42-year-old man, identified by the surname Ahn, killed five people and injured five others, three of whom are in critical condition. Eight others are being treated for smoke inhalation.
The dead are a 12-year-old girl, 65-year-old woman, 74-year-old man, a woman in her 30s and another woman in her 60s. Police did not say it was a hate crime.
Ahn was arrested by police who arrived at the scene after receiving calls from neighbors.
Police said Ahn was “talking gibberish” after being handcuffed. Based on accounts from Ahn’s acquaintances, he may have suffered from schizophrenia in the past.
According to police, Ahn poured gasoline all over the living room of his fourth floor apartment, set fire to a piece of newspaper and hurled it on the flammable liquid at around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday. His apartment building is 10 stories tall. Ahn walked down to the second floor and stood in front of an elevator, stabbing neighbors escaping down the staircase.
The fire was extinguished about 20 minutes later by fire fighters.
Ahn, said police, lived alone and was jobless.
A taskforce was set up by the Jinju Police Precinct to investigate the arson and murder case, including at least 39 officers from the Jinju police and seven officers from other local police branches. Nearly 20 other officers in charge of grief therapy and measures protecting victims were assigned to help the surviving neighbors.
Police said Ahn had a criminal record of physical assault. Last January, he punched a female employee at a company in South Gyeongsang he previously worked for, was arrested on spot, and ultimately fined 3 million won ($2,643).
A company representative told police that Ahn worked there last December and January. The job didn’t seem to go well but it was unclear if he was technically fired. After he left the company, Ahn returned one day and punched the female employee.
The relationship between Ahn and the victim was not explained. A company source said co-workers thought he had some kind of a mental problem after witnessing the attack.
Before Ahn left the company, he was said to have told his coworkers that he used to work in a factory but hadn’t received his paycheck yet.
It’s not clear whether Ahn was mentally ill, but an official from the Ministry of Justice disclosed that he went through psychiatric testing for nearly a month in 2010 at a forensic psychiatry institute in Gongju, South Chungcheong after committing an unidentified transgression. The result of that test was not disclosed.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, SOHN GUK-HEE, WE SUNG-WOOK AND LEE EUN-JI [firstname.lastname@example.org]