Yamagami Indicted on Murder Charge for Abe Shooting

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tetsuya Yamagami is transferred to Nara Nishi Police Station in Nara City following the end of his psychiatric evaluation on Tuesday.

Suspect Tetsuya Yamagami was indicated on Friday on charges including murder related to the shooting death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I did it because I thought that would be my only chance and I had to end it,” Yamagami, 42, has been quoted as saying to police. The shooting took place in Nara City while Abe was giving a campaign speech.

The Nara prefectural police believe that Yamagami had difficulty in reaching the leader of the Unification Church, whom he had targeted for many years, and with his funds for gun making drying up, instead decided to shoot Abe, whom he believed was linked to the religious group.

The Nara District Public Prosecutors Office indicted Yamagami on Friday on charges of murder and violation of Firearms and Swords Control Law.

According to investigative sources, Yamagami has told investigators that he had held a grudge against the church, officially called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, as his mother had joined the group and continued to donate large amounts of money to it. Her donations reached some ¥100 million and Yamagami began considering assassinating the church’s leader Hak Ja Han Moon by around 2019 at the latest. Yamagami reportedly said that he had tried to kill the leader with a firebomb when she visited Japan in October 2019. However, he was unable to get close to her.

He continued to target Moon and is said to have started making homemade guns around the spring of 2021. At the time, he worked as a temp at a factory in Kyoto Prefecture and spent much of his roughly ¥200,000 monthly salary on gun production.

Yamagami learned how to make guns through YouTube videos and purchased electric cords, metal pipes, potassium nitrate — a key ingredient for gunpowder — and other materials in bulk. He rented a room separate from his residence and a garage for drying gunpowder, which further raised his costs.

He began having difficulty at work and quit his job in mid-May 2022. Soon after, he started to work for a company in Osaka Prefecture but quit again in about three weeks, leaving him without any source of income. He was spending down his savings and racking up debt from credit card loans.

The spread of the novel coronavirus also had an impact. Yamagami is said to have told the police that it had become difficult to reach Moon, with the pandemic keeping the leader from visiting Japan. He had also used up most of his gun-making funds. “I was no longer able to make ends meet. I thought that, if I was not able to see Moon, the leader of the Unification Church, which had destroyed my family and life, I would attack Abe, who was linked to the group,” Yamagami reportedly said.

According to the sources, Yamagami told investigators that he had watched a video showing Abe’s message to a group affiliated with the Unification Church in September 2021 and that he thought it problematic that Abe’s grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, had a close relationship with Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the church.

Yamagami is said to have made the final decision to shoot Abe on July 3, 2022, five days before the day of the attack. He checked Abe’s campaign speech schedule for the House of Councillors election on his smartphone and learned that Abe was scheduled to deliver a speech in Okayama City on July 7, 2022. He is suspected of having headed to the city in a Shinkansen bullet train carrying a concealed homemade gun. However, he was not able to get close to Abe on this attempt and gave up. On July 8, the following day, he is alleged to have shot Abe on a street in front of Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara City, where he was immediately arrested.