Teen Cadet Was Targeting 52-year-old GSDF Instructor, Police Sources Say

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A vehicle carrying a Ground Self-Defense Force cadet suspected of fatally shooting two GSDF members leaves a Gifu prefectural police station on Thursday.

GIFU — An 18-year-old Ground Self-Defense Force cadet suspected of fatally shooting two GSDF members and wounding one other at a firing range in Gifu on Wednesday has told authorities he was targeting one of the victims, according to Gifu prefectural police sources.

Two instructors aged 52 and 25 were killed, and another aged 25 was injured. All of the victims were men.

The suspect, who was arrested at the scene, told police he was targeting the 52-year-old instructor, according to the sources.

On Thursday morning, the prefectural police sent the teen to the Gifu District Public Prosecutors Office on suspicion of murder.

The prefectural police and the SDF police unit are investigating the motive of the attack.

The cadet allegedly fired four shots with a Type 89 rifle toward the three instructors during a training exercise at the GSDF’s Hino basic firing range at around 9:10 a.m. Wednesday.

The suspect has denied an intention to kill the 25-year-old instructor, telling police, “I aimed at his leg and shot. I didn’t mean to kill him.”

The GSDF had not observed any problems with the suspect’s attitude toward his duties as a cadet, according to Defense Ministry sources.

According to the GSDF, the teen joined a training unit in April and was undergoing education and training with the 35th Infantry Regiment based in Moriyama Ward, Nagoya.

Cadets typically take aptitude tests during the recruitment phase, and after enlistment, they are assigned a mentor who keeps a record of changes in their lives and service careers, according to ministry sources.

After the shooting, the GSDF reviewed the teen’s records but did not discover any issues.

On the day of the shooting, training began around 8 a.m., and after safety guidance, live-fire exercises started around 9 a.m.

About 70 cadets, including the suspect, entered designated areas in turns to practice shooting.

The suspect allegedly shot the instructor at 9:10 a.m.

According to the police and the ministry, something might have occurred between the cadet and the 52-year-old instructor just before the shooting.

The cadet’s age means he will be treated as a “specified juvenile” under the Juvenile Law that took effect in April last year. Following the case’s transfer to a family court, it will be referred to prosecutors if it is determined that a penalty should be imposed.