HAGATNA, Guam — The government of Guam is offering condolences and reassurances to Japan in the wake of an attack on Feb. 12 that left three Japanese tourists dead and 11 other people injured.
Chad Ryan Desoto, 21, of Tamuning is accused of driving his car onto the sidewalk and into a convenience store in the Tumon district, striking several people, then getting out of the car and stabbing eight people with a knife.
Two of the stabbing victims, Kazuko Uehara, 81, and Rie Sugiyama, 29, died, and Sugiyama’s 8-month-old son was among those hospitalized. One of the six people hit by the car, Hitoshi Yokota, 51, succumbed to his injuries at Guam General Hospital on Feb. 14.
The incident could have serious consequences for Guam’s tourism industry, as Japanese made up 73 percent of visitors to the U.S. territory in fiscal year 2011.
On Feb. 13, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo issued the following message to the people of Japan:
“My brothers and sisters in Japan, my name is Eddie Calvo, and I’m the governor of Guam — a place you’ve always known as a safe and inviting destination for decades.
“We are shocked and grieving with the families of those who were injured and who died.
“This is not the kind of thing that happens in our community. Anyone who has been to Guam knows this.
“And while this type of crime doesn’t happen here like this, police and emergency personnel responded quickly. The lone criminal was immediately subdued, apprehended, and is now in custody.
“He will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I assure you, my friends, we will not let this go unpunished.
“For your comfort I have increased police presence throughout the visitor district even further. Guam values its long-term relationship with the Japanese people and we promise you that we are committed to ensuring the safety of all visitors to Guam.
“This was an isolated incident — something that just doesn’t happen in our community. We are shocked, we are grieving with the families, and we extend our deepest condolences to those hurt.”
Calvo also released a video message with Japanese subtitles.
On Feb. 15, the government announced that three of the injured, including two children, were discharged from the hospital and were at the airport preparing to go back to Japan. One patient remained at the hospital.
On Feb. 16, the Guam Visitors Bureau announced that Archbishop Anthony Apuron would preside over a memorial mass for the victims the following day at the Cathedral in Hagatna, and that donations to the 2/12 Memorial Fund can be dropped off at any Bank of Guam location or the GVB office in Tumon. GVB set up the fund at the Bank of Guam.
In Tokyo on Feb. 15, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, “I wish to express my deepest condolences to the deceased and to their families. I would also like to extend my sympathies to those who were injured in the incident.
“In the wake of this incident, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dispatched two officials to Guam to reinforce the operations of the Consulate-General of Japan in Hagatna. To ensure the safety of Japanese nationals, we have been working with local relevant authorities, have been gathering relevant information, as well as communicating with the families of the victims and other related parties so as to offer the maximum support possible.
“Ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals abroad is an important mission of the government. We will continue to make every effort to offer all necessary support to facilitate the return of the victims and their families to Japan.”