Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department will investigate how officers failed to find a knife that a Taiwanese man, suspected in a double murder, used to kill himself in the back of a police vehicle.
The incident came just days after Tokyo police officers initially refused to take into custody a former senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult who had been on the wanted list for nearly 17 years.
Tokyo police stopped Chang Chih-yang, 30, for questioning in Nagoya's Sakae district on Jan. 9. He produced an alien registration card, but the officers were not convinced it was him, so they placed him in the back seat of the police vehicle and drove to the nearby Naka Police Station for fingerprinting.
When the vehicle arrived at the entrance to the station, Chang took out a knife hidden near his waist in his pants and stabbed himself in the throat, police said. The officers tried to stop him, but failed. Chang was confirmed dead at a hospital.
Police said officers patted down Chang and confirmed the contents of his jacket and pants pockets after he showed his alien registration card.
Although an individual on the wanted list would normally be arrested upon discovery by police, Chang was only asked to submit to voluntary questioning because the officers were not sure of his identity.
Police are not allowed to order individuals asked to submit to voluntary questioning to remove their clothing to check for weapons.
Police sources said Chang told the officers in the vehicle that he stabbed Lin Chih-ying, 22, and Chu Li-chieh, 24, in their apartment in Tokyo's Taito Ward on Jan. 5 when he tried to rob them.
The two Taiwanese women were studying Japanese. Chang attended the same language school and lived in the same neighborhood.
He was placed on the wanted list on Jan. 8 after footage from security cameras showed him at the apartment building of the two women shortly after the attack.
According to police sources, investigators determined that Chang was in Nagoya from signals emitted from his mobile phone.
Police also learned that Chang was a fan of SKE48, the regional spinoff of the wildly popular AKB48 all-girl singing and dancing group. Around 6:20 p.m. on Jan. 9, police found Chang in a building in the Sakae entertainment district that houses the base of activities for SKE48.
According to a source with the Aichi prefectural police, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department called around 6:30 p.m. and asked to use an interrogation room at the Naka Police Station.
Around 6:40 p.m., a Tokyo police officer ran into the station and asked someone to call an ambulance.
When an Aichi police officer went to check, Chang was found covered in blood and slumped over in the back of the police vehicle.
There have been cases in the past of individuals taken in for voluntary questioning committing suicide, but those have generally involved the individual jumping from a building.
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