Multiple Murder Incident in Nagano Raises Many Important Questions

A horrific incident occurred in which local residents and police officers were killed one after another in a residential area dotted with rice paddies and fields. What was the motive behind such acts? Was there no way to prevent the police officers from being killed in the line of duty? These questions must be answered as soon as possible.

In Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, a man allegedly stabbed a local woman with a knife and used a hunting rifle to fatally shoot two police officers who subsequently arrived on the scene. Another woman was found lying nearby. The incident left a total of four people dead.

After the stabbing and shooting attack, the man holed up in his house, but about 12 hours later he came outside and was taken into custody.

The Nagano prefectural police arrested Masanori Aoki, 31, on suspicion of murdering one of the officers. The police intend to charge him with additional counts of murder for the remaining three victims.

The woman who was attacked with a knife was reportedly stabbed in front of a neighbor after frantically fleeing through a field. The bizarre and brutal nature of the incident leaves one speechless.

In addition, Aoki allegedly fired at the driver’s seat of a police car that arrived at the crime scene in response to an emergency call from a witness saying that a woman had been stabbed. The two police officers are believed to have been shot inside their car.

The officers belonged to the community affairs division of the local police station. It is profoundly regrettable that the officers, who rushed to the scene for the safety of the community, suddenly lost their lives to a gun.

They were not wearing bulletproof vests. They were probably not aware that the suspect had a firearm, so it is unlikely to have occurred to them to wear bulletproof vests. However, in light of such an incident happening, it will be necessary to consider such measures as using bulletproof glass in police car windows to protect the lives of police officers.

Aoki’s father is the speaker of the Nakano municipal assembly. After dropping out of university, the suspect had been helping out with his family’s agricultural business. He reportedly became less talkative since returning to his parents’ house. It is hoped that the prefectural police will clarify the whole picture of the incident, including its background and whether there was any prior trouble between him and the victims.

Aoki had obtained permission to possess hunting rifles and air guns.

In response to past incidents involving guns, regulations on firearms have been strengthened, requiring people who intend to possess guns to submit a medical certificate from a psychiatrist and pass screenings by their respective prefectural public safety commissions. Whether the suspect’s firearm possession and management were appropriate should also be verified.

While holed up in the house, Aoki remained in possession of the rifle, and shots were heard from inside. The incident caused great fear in the neighborhood, prompting some residents to take shelter in a school gymnasium.

One of the women who was killed in the incident was left lying near the standoff scene for many hours until the suspect was detained.

The prefectural police said they were unable to approach the woman because the suspect’s behavior was unpredictable. It is hoped that an investigation will also be conducted into the circumstances of her death and the appropriateness of the prefectural police’s response to the standoff.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2023)