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(2nd LD) Apartment arson suspect detained for stabbing five residents to death

All Headlines 15:38 April 17, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with photo of suspect and more details in paras 7-8, 14-17)

JINJU, South Korea, April 17 (Yonhap) -- A man in Jinju, southeastern South Korea, set his apartment aflame on Wednesday and attacked fleeing residents with a knife, killing five of them and injuring 13, police said.

The 42-year-old arson and murder suspect, identified only as his family name Ahn, set fire to his apartment building in Jinju, about 435 kilometers southeast of Seoul, at around 4:29 a.m. before randomly stabbing other residents coming out of their houses to evacuate, police said.

Police and firefighters inspect the scene of a fire and murders at an apartment building in Jinju, southeastern South Korea, on April 17, 2019. (Yonhap)

Five residents, including a 12-year-old girl, were stabbed to death in the apartment stairways, and 13 others were injured, with three of them in critical condition, police said.

Other victims killed in the stabbing spree include a man in his 70s, two women in their 60s and one woman in her 30s. Eight of the injured suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital.

The suspect was detained on the scene at about 4:50 a.m. after a confrontation with police. During the confrontation, police officers fired blanks, bullets and tasers but the suspect was not hit.

Ahn reportedly told police he committed the crimes out of grievances about his overdue wages.

The suspect (R) in an apartment arson and murder case in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, is escorted by a police officer at the Jinju Police Station on April 17, 2019. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Employment and Labor denied the report, saying Ahn has never filed a complaint about unpaid wages with the local labor authorities.

"A review of his employment insurance documents showed the suspect has never worked as a full-time employee. He has mainly worked as a daily laborer," the ministry said.

Police said the suspect was not intoxicated at the time of the crime.

The fire was extinguished by firefighters about 20 minutes later.

The detention of the suspect came after a resident called a 112 police emergency line to report witnessing a man wielding a weapon against residents fleeing from fire.

Police said the suspect was refusing to make a statement after being transferred to a police station.

Police said they have secured testimonies from his neighbors and others that the suspect has a history of schizophrenia.

Residents of an apartment building in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, and firefighters watch the scene of an arson and murders on April 17, 2019. (Yonhap)

Ahn's neighbors also said Wednesday's tragedy could have been prevented, as police were aware that the suspect had gone on several rampages in his neighborhood in the past year.

"Ahn has been a subject of horror, as he frequently threw human excrement in front of other houses and in elevators and hurled expletives at other residents," a neighbor said.

The suspect was also accused of stalking one of the five victims in the past and assaulting two residents in January.

Another neighbor complained that some residents had previously reported Ahn's bizarre and violent behavior to the police but no countermeasures were taken.

Police said they will conduct further investigation into the suspect's occupational and health records, as well as the motives for his crimes.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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