In a country where gun violence is rare, the murder of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe is raising questions about the shooter and his motive. Here’s what we know based on media reports and official statements.
Abe had just begun a campaign speech in the western city of Nara on Friday when he was shot from behind, from a distance of about three meters (10 feet). Two gunshots were heard. Moments later security personnel tackled a man to the floor. He was wearing a gray t-shirt, khaki trousers and a face mask.
Who was the shooter?
The gunmen has been identified as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, an unemployed former member of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force — Japan’s navy — who is being investigated for murder following the confirmation of Abe’s death. NHK reported that he worked for the force from 2002 to 2005. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said he was until recently working as a forklift operator in Kyoto prefecture.
What has the suspect said?
The suspect told police that he had initially planned to attack the leader of a religious group he believed caused his mother to become bankrupt after she donated large sums of money, Kyodo reported. He also held a grudge against Abe, alleging to police that the former prime minister had promoted the religious group in Japan, the report said. It added that he denied a political motive for the shooting.
The suspect had followed Abe to other campaign events including one in Okayama on July 7, apparently in an attempt to find a venue at which an attack would be possible, NHK reported, citing investigators. He arrived at the Nara site of the shooting at least an hour before Abe began speaking, according to NHK.
What weapon did he use?
Police said the gun was homemade, about 40 centimeters long and 20 centimeters high. A close-up shot of the weapon on the ground appeared to show two tubes wrapped together with black tape.
The suspect said the weapon could fire six rounds at once, the Yomiuri Newspaper reported, citing investigators. Officials found what could be stray fragment holes lodged in a campaign car parked about 20 meters away from where Abe was, according to Yomiuri.
What are the police doing now?
Police discovered several more guns, also homemade, at the suspect’s residence. Explosives experts were also summoned to the scene due to concerns the handcrafted weapons may unexpectedly explode.
The suspect was first arrested for attempted murder, but those charges were upgraded to murder on Sunday, after Abe’s death.
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