Terror on the Taipei MRT
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-22 12:38 PM
21-year-old Cheng Chieh, a second-year student at Tunghai University in Taichung, is in custody at the Taipei Detention Center after being charged with the murder of four persons Wednesday afternoon on a Taipei MRT train and at MRT Jiangzicui Station in New Taipei City. Media reports of the incident, the first mass random killing in history in Taiwan, left the public shocked and looking for answers to questions about how it could have occurred and whether anyone saw it coming.

The four fatalities included two women aged 62 and 52 and two men aged 28 and 26. Nearly two dozen other passengers were taken to area hospitals for treatment of stabling and slashing wounds.

New Taipei City Police Commissioner Chen Kuo-en informed reporters late Wednesday that although witnesses had said Cheng “reeked of alcohol” during Wednesday’s mayhem, he was found to have a blood alcohol level of only 0.04% and claimed to have been drinking bottled water.

Chen said that two police officers have been dispatched to Tunghai University to search Cheng’s dormitory room for any evidence relating to the case and to talk with school officials about Cheng’s background.

A spokesperson for the university told reporters Wednesday that Cheng had talked with a school counselor in April after he posted a message on his Facebook page saying that he "wanted to do something big this year." The matter was dropped, however, after the counselor reported finding nothing unusual.

Cheng chose to carry out his grisly plan on the Bannan Line of Taipei’s MRT system, starting from Jiangzicui Station near his family home in New Taipei City. He purchased two knives – one 30cm watermelon knife and a folding 10cm knife that he carried in his pocket – and took an MRT train to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Station before turning around and re-tracing his route. He began stabbing at passengers after the train left the Longshan Temple Station in Wanhua District on a segment that runs underneath the Tamsui River and is nearly 4km long. At Jiangzicui Station he exited the carriage along with panicked passengers and continued stalking victims until he was subdued by MRT security personnel and about a dozen others in the near an exit from the station platform.

Street crime is extremely rare in Taiwan, widely regarded as one of the safest places in Asia, and multiple killings are practically unheard of. The island was rocked in December 2012 by the death of a young boy who had been selected at random in a game arcade in the southern city of Tainan.

In that case, Cheng Wen-chin lured the boy to a restroom where he slit his throat with a knife, afterwards going nonchalantly to a diner where he was quickly apprehended by police. During initial questioning he remarked that he had done some research on the Internet and found that offenders who only kill one or two persons will not be sentenced to death in Taiwan and will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

After his spree on Wednesday, Cheng Chieh is reported to have asked arresting officers whether he would receive the death penalty.

Chen Kuo-en said Cheng told investigators he had originally planned to stage his attack after graduating from university but changed his mind recently and decided to pull it off Wednesday because, as he put it, “I didn’t have any classes.”

Chen said Cheng told investigators he had wanted to do something "shocking and big" and had wanted to carry out such an attack since he was a child. Chen said no other motive was presently known and the suspect had no record of mental health problems."He's aware of the legal responsibility of his crime,"

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