Information provided by the family and classmates of Cheng Chieh (鄭捷), the suspect in Wednesday’s Taipei MRT killing spree, showed that he had few friends and spent most of his free time immersed in video combat games.
Cheng, 21, comes from a relatively wealthy family in Banciao District (板橋), New Taipei City. He has a younger brother.
“Other than going to school, he stays home most of the time. He does not socialize much and does not have a girlfriend,” Cheng’s father told police yesterday.
“When he is home, he is in his room playing video games. He is really into combat video games, those that involve fighting and killing people,” his father said in response to police’s questions.
“I could not believe this has happened. Our lives are now ruined. How can my family afford to pay for the four lives that were taken,” the father said.
Police said that during questioning, Cheng confirmed that his favorite pastime was playing League of Legends and Tower of Saviors, — two of the three most popular combat video games favored by Taiwanese youth.
“When I play and see the characters in the video game being hacked and blood spurting out of them, I get this strange, ecstatic feeling,” police quoted Cheng as saying.
Cheng is a student at Tunghai University in Greater Taichung and has a room at the school dormitory. He also studied at the National Defense University (NDU) in Taoyuan County, a military academy affiliated with the armed forces, for two years from 2011 to last year.
NDU officials confirmed that Cheng was a student at the university, but was forced to drop out when he failed half of his courses. That led to his transfer to Tunghai University last year.
Cheng told police that he attended NDU because the school has a good program on physical training, and while there, he got into running and improved his physical conditioning, “so that I can kill more people.”
A former high-school classmate said Cheng was taller than most students in his class, exhibited violent tendencies and was interested in athletics and martial arts.
A video clip of a high-school film drama showed Cheng in a mock street fighting scene, showing off his martial arts skills.
Police said the suspect told them that he had started to write a novel from a first person point of view on how to kill people on a train, to “punish the citizens of the world” — a chilling forewarning of the MRT knife attack that he carried out on Wednesday.
Cheng posted parts of the story online and also wrote messages about wanting to “hack” people on his Facebook page.
A former high-school classmate was alarmed when he read the online messages and reported them to Tunghai University officials.
The university arranged for a counseling session with Cheng on May 9, but officials said the counselors did not find anything wrong with him. Cheng was calm and gave straight answers, saying that writing the novel was just a way of expressing himself, they said.
Under police questioning, Cheng said he had long planned the attack on the Taipei MRT.
“I have aspired to do something big since I was in elementary school,” police quoted him as saying.
“I felt that life was empty, that it was not worth living anymore,” the alleged killer said. “However, I could not bring myself to commit suicide, and so if I kill more people, then I will get the death penalty.”
Police went to Cheng’s dormitory room yesterday to gather more evidence and have confiscated his computer, hoping to find out more details about his novel in progress and messages he had posted online.
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