Cheng Chieh described as a loner who planned to pull off 'something big'
May 23, 2014, 12:05 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Details emerged yesterday about the young college student who killed four aboard a moving metro train in Taipei the day earlier, with some accounts describing him as a loner who had spoken of plans for doing "something big."
Wielding two knives, Cheng Chieh, 21, injured more than 20 other passengers in a seemingly random attack just before the afternoon rush hour. He was stopped and detained by police and metro staff on the platform after the train pulled into a station.
When police arrived, they found the college student had wreaked havoc in four carriages of the train, where critically injured and dying victims were left on the floor as other passengers ran for their lives.
Cheng, a sophomore studying environmental engineering, transferred last September to Tunghai University, a well-known Christian school in Central Taiwan, after not being allowed to continue his studies at National Defense University because he failed half of his courses there.
Cheng's parents told police that the young man spent most of his free time playing combat games online, according to newspaper reports.
They reportedly said that he has few friends, but police said there is nothing unusual about his family, which includes a younger brother.
Cheng told police during the preliminary investigation that he likes to write fiction and play violent video games.
Despite his parents' account, Cheng's schoolmates from high school remembered him as a fairly regular kid, though they said he showed a particular interest in violence.
He once killed a turtle and put the dead animal on display in the classroom, one of his former classmates told Apple Daily.
Cheng was said to be a big fan of the Japanese horror novel "Battle Royale," in which a group of students are put on a secluded island and forced to fight each other to the death. He reportedly wrote his own stories with similar plots centered on mass killings.
In April, Cheng posted online a story written in the first-person point of view in which he said he "wants to kill people on a train" to "punish the citizens of the world," a foreboding symbol of the attack he eventually carried out Wednesday, the Liberty Times reported.
One of his former high school classmates who saw the story was alarmed enough to report the incident to Tunghai University, the paper said.
Another report by Apple Daily said Cheng disclosed he wanted to do "something big" and showed sociopathic tendencies in a Facebook post in April.
During a counseling session given by the university on May 9, Cheng nevertheless told counselors that his story was simply a way of expressing himself.
After his arrest, Cheng repeatedly indicated that the plans had been a long time in the making. "I have aspired to do something big since I was little," he said, telling police that "I know I will be sentenced to death," Apple Daily said.
Cheng said he has had enough of the pressures of life and does not want to live anymore, according to the paper.
"But I can't bring myself to commit suicide, and so I thought that if I kill a greater number of people, I will get the death penalty," Cheng was quoted as saying.
The reports cannot be confirmed as ongoing criminal investigations are supposed to be kept secret.