Suspect in shooting of ex-Japan PM Abe was unhappy with him and intended to kill him

A security officer tackling Tetsuya Yamagami, suspected of shooting Mr Abe in Nara, Japan, on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Security officers tackling a man suspected of shooting former Japan PM Shinzo Abe, in Nara, Japan, on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO
Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was rushed to the hospital after he was shot while giving a speech in Nara on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Police arrested a suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, after Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, collapsed and later succumbed to his injuries having been shot on Friday (July 8) while giving a speech in western Japan.

Mr Abe, 67, was assassinated after he was shot twice in the city of Nara near Kyoto. The Nara city fire department said the former premier suffered wounds on the right side of his neck and left clavicle. Doctors pronounced the former premier dead at 5.03pm local time.

The suspect Yamagami, 41, was a Nara resident. Images shared on social media showed a man being tackled after the shooting near Yamato-Saidaiji Station, with the man dropping his suspected weapon to the ground upon being apprehended.

The bespectacled man, wearing a mask like most in the crowd, appeared to be dressed in a grey polo shirt and khaki cargo trousers, with a blue messenger bag slung over his shoulder. He was captured in video clips on social media standing behind Mr Abe. 

Media reports said Yamagami was formerly a member of the Maritime Self-Defence Force, also known as the Japanese Navy, and left the force in 2005 having served for around three years.

The unemployed Yamagami told officers he had used a handmade gun to fire at Mr Abe, Japanese police said on Friday. They said it was made with a mix of metal and wood, with the gun measuring about 40cm long and 20cm wide.

“That’s the suspect’s assertion, and we have determined that (the gun) is clearly handmade in appearance, although our analysis is currently ongoing,” a police officer in Nara told reporters.

Close-up images on social media show it had metal pipes for both its gun barrels crudely strapped to a board with black tape.

Remote video URL

Yamagami told police he was unhappy with Mr Abe and had intended to kill him. 

The suspect told police he bore a grudge against a “specific organisation” and believed the former premier was part of it. 

But his grudge was not about politics, the police said, adding it was not clear if the unnamed organisation actually existed. Several Japanese media outlets described it as a religious group.

Yamagami was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and a 90-person investigation taskforce has been established. 

Investigators raided the suspect’s home near the site of the shooting yesterday, with explosives found and removed from his apartment by a bomb disposal squad.

Nearby residents have been asked to evacuate until the area can be declared safe.

Officers in protective gear also confiscated “several handmade gun-like items” at the suspect’s home. 

A screengrab from a news report showing suspect Tetsuya Yamagami standing just behind former Japan PM Shinzo Abe before the shooting. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM ANN VIDEO

Yamagami told police he had learnt about Mr Abe’s visit online. 

An official from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who had been standing beside Mr Abe at the scene told NHK that the suspect had “approached quietly” and didn’t seem to show any intent of running away after shooting.

Police said that they were probing whether there were any problems with security at the campaign event where the assassination took place. “We will take appropriate measures if problems were discovered.” 

A homemade shotgun purportedly used to shoot former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on July 8, 2022. PHOTO: NHK

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.