Nagano Shooting Sees Neighborhood Spend Skittish Night Before Arrest

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The home of a suspect in a shooting incident is seen in the upper right of this aerial photo taken at 8:19 a.m. on Friday in Nakano, Nagano Prefecture.

NAKANO, Nagano — As dawn was breaking over the Nagano Prefecture city that had spent a terrifying night while a rifle-wielding man barricaded himself inside his home in an incident in which people died, a police helicopter noticed a movement amid the dimness.

The helicopter had been hovering all night and, as the sky lightened around 3:30 a.m. Friday, it lowered its altitude. “A man is confirmed,” came a voice out of a speaker from a radio on the ground in contact with the helicopter, which is believed to be from the prefectural police.

The suspect, Masanori Aoki, had been spotted outside of the house in Nakano, Nagano Prefecture, and about a half-hour later, a swarm of police vehicles had moved close to the scene. Wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, the officers kept an eye out from behind the vehicles’ doors.

At 4:37 a.m., it was over. Aoki walked out of the house and was taken into custody by Nagano prefectural police, much to the relief of neighbors who had been forced to shelter in a school gym. There were no gunshots or loud noises heard as investigators scurried around the home.

The standoff started at around 4:25 p.m. on Thursday. Yukie Murakami, 66, was fatally stabbed at a nearby farm, and lieutenant Yoshiki Tamai, 46, and Sgt. Takuo Ikeuchi, 61, of Nakano Police Station, would later be shot to death.

Another woman, identified as Yasuko Takeuchi, 70, was also found dead.

A 60-year-old man who lived nearby said he saw Aoki go in and out the house with a hunting rifle. The suspect ignored police officers’ call to put the gun down.

“My impression of him is that he stopped talking to people as he grew older,” the man said of Aoki. “He did not offer any greetings when he met someone, and he did not participate in any community events.”

Another man in his 60s was working his field at around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday when a neighbor rushed up to him, saying, “A woman needs help.” Without knowing any details, he called the emergency number and went to another field, where he found an unconscious woman on the ground who had apparently been stabbed with a knife.

In contact with emergency services, he tried desperately to revive her under their guidance. He said her back was covered in blood.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A police car, right, believed to be shot at by the suspect is inspected by police on Thursday night.

A police car then arrived on the scene, giving him a moment of relief — until a man appeared with bloodshot eyes holding what appeared to be a gun. The witness said he then fled the scene, but heard two gunshots while running away. He emerged unharmed, but said with a look of disbelief, “At first, I thought the man was just threatening people with an air gun. But I realized it was real when I heard the shots.”

Another man in his 70s who was driving by the scene at the time saw the woman lying on the ground, thought something was off and stopped his car in a nearby parking lot. Less than 10 meters away, a man dressed in camouflage fatigues appeared in the street holding a gun.

The driver said he thought it was strange and wondered, “Who would hunt birds in a place like this?” He then saw the man point the gun at the driver of a police car that had just arrived. The frenzied witness drove away.

“It’s scary to imagine that I might have gotten caught up in all of this,” the man said.

While Aoki was holed up in his house on Thursday night, 88 people from 39 households in the neighborhood were evacuated to the Nakanodaira Junior High School gymnasium.

They got the go-ahead to leave at around 7 a.m. on Friday following the apprehension of the suspect, and returned to their homes looking tired after a skittish night.