‘Shooter stalked Abe in Okayama’ before attack in Nara

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People offer prayers for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of tables for offerings of flowers on Saturday in Nara City, where he was shot dead Friday.

NARA — A man arrested in Friday’s fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Nara City has told police that he had also followed Abe in Okayama City the day before the attack, according to investigative sources.

The Nara prefectural police are investigating the attack with an eye on the possibility that the assailant, armed with a homemade gun, had been watching for an opportunity to commit the murder.

Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, of Nara City, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder for allegedly shooting Abe in front of Yamato-Saidaiji Station at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Abe, the former president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was giving a stump speech to support an LDP candidate in the House of Councillors election when he was attacked.

Abe, 67, died at a hospital at 5:03 p.m. the same day. The police changed the charge against the suspect from attempted murder to murder for further investigation.

Yamagami, currently unemployed, was formerly a Maritime Self-Defense Force member.

“I made guns to kill former Prime Minister Abe. I also made a bomb. I was so determined to kill him and was stalking him in the places he visited for campaign speeches,” Yamagami was quoted as telling the police during questioning, according to investigative sources. “I also visited the venue in Okayama City,” he was quoted as saying.

Abe on Thursday evening attended a rally for supporters of an LDP candidate for the upper house election at a civic center in Okayama City. He spoke for about 10 minutes before leaving. About 2,300 people had gathered at the venue, exceeding the 1,700 seats available.

According to campaign staff, the planned visit by the former prime minister had been tweeted about for over a week in advance by the candidate.

Yamagami told the police that he had learned about Abe’s plan to give a stump speech in Nara City from online information. The police believe he found out about Abe’s visit to Okayama City in similar fashion.

Visitors to the Okayama City venue were required to sign in with their names and addresses. Following Friday’s shooting, the campaign staff checked the list, but Yamagami’s name was not included. No full-body scan by metal detectors was conducted at the venue. Security personnel from the Okayama prefectural police and the Metropolitan Police Department were on guard.

Hatred against religious group

In police questioning, Yamagami named a specific religious group, which he said he “hated,” according to investigative sources. “I meant to target the group’s top person, but it was difficult. I thought Abe had a connection with it, so I carried out the shooting,” he was quoted as telling the police. The prefectural police believe the perpetrator has built up a one-sided resentment against Abe.

He also told the police that his mother was a member of the group. “She donated a large amount to the group and went bankrupt, so I had to make sure I punished it,” he was quoted as saying.

Died from blood loss

The prefectural police on Saturday morning announced that autopsy results showed Abe had died from blood loss due to a gunshot wound to his upper left arm. The fatal wound was caused by a bullet that damaged the right and left subclavian arteries. He also had two other wounds on his neck, one of which was confirmed to have been caused by a gunshot.

Abe was believed to have been shot by Yamagami, who approached him from behind, about two minutes after he began his speech, standing on a block. As soon as the first shot was heard, Abe turned around and was shot in the throat, according to witnesses.

The murder weapon was initially thought to be a shotgun, but the police recovered at the scene a homemade gun about 40 centimeters long. The police searched Yamagami’s home and seized several homemade guns and a computer.

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