A college student surnamed Lee (李) reportedly heard of the intentions of the supposed Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) assailant Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) to carry out a killing spree hours before it took place on Wednesday, but did not inform anyone, local media reported yesterday.
Cheng, 21, is the suspect in the deaths on Wednesday of four passengers and assaults on 24 others on a Taipei MRT train at 4:26pm on the Bannan line. He was detained by police and MRT staff.
“I could not tell if he really meant to do it,” Lee, interviewed by prosecutors on Friday, was quoted by the Chinese-language China Times as saying. “I very much value my friendship with Cheng. If I told someone what he said, I was afraid of losing this friendship.”
The China Times report added that Lee was Cheng’s only close friend. They had been classmates at Hongdao Junior High School in Taipei.
Just two hours before the alleged MRT attack, Cheng met Lee at a fast-food restaurant.
Lee, whose family told police he is an introvert and has autistic tendencies, was quoted by police as saying that Cheng had talked about killing people many times, and that he could only try to dissuade him from having such thoughts because he could not tell whether Cheng meant it.
He said in the past six months, Cheng had talked more frequently about killing people, but “I did not report this to the police, because I did not know if he was talking ‘for real’ or not.”
Lee said that Cheng called him around 2pm on Wednesday and said to meet him at a McDonald’s restaurant on Wenhua Road in New Taipei City’s Banciao District (板橋).
“At first, Cheng started talking about playing Tower of Saviors and League of Legends and other combat video games,” Lee said, then after about half an hour, Cheng said he had to leave.
Lee said that before he left, Cheng told him: “It’s about that time now. I have to pull my emotions together. Right after this, I will start the action.”
Lee said he knew Cheng was talking about killing people, “but I heard him talk about this countless times since our school days, so I did not pay particular notice this time.”
Cheng was also quoted by Lee as saying that he had a lot of stress from academic demands and job hunting, and that he was thinking about suicide.
After questioning at his local police precinct on Thursday, Lee was taken to the New Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday for more questioning and was released.