Abe shooting could have been prevented, report says

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Nara Prefectural Police agents inspect the site where former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot, in Nara City on Jul. 8.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The deadly shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July could have been prevented, the National Police Agency said in a report Thursday.

There were problems with the way the Nara prefectural police handled the incident on the scene and with Abe’s security plan, said the agency, which investigated possible security flaws regarding the shooting of Abe during a stump speech in the western city of Nara.

It is “highly likely that the attack could have been prevented if the police had taken appropriate measures,” the report said.

As part of preventive measures, the agency will revise Japan’s rules on guarding dignitaries and increase its involvement in related matters, including by checking prefectural police security plans for such people in advance.

The report confirmed that the main cause of the failure to prevent the shooting was a brief absence of security guards watching the space behind Abe where the 41-year-old shooter, Tetsuya Yamagami, approached him before the shooting. Yamagami, sent to prosecutors on suspicion of murder, is detained for psychiatric evaluation.

The report also brought up the actions taken by the Nara police’s head of security division, who was the on-site commander, as a problem.

The head of the division visually confirmed that a guard from the Nara police assigned to protect Abe from behind had followed an order from another guard and switched to covering Abe’s right side just before his speech.

The division chief, however, failed to station guards to watch the space behind Abe, according to the report.

This stemmed from problems with the Nara police’s security plan, the report said, noting that the area behind Abe was a prefectural road, which was an obvious security risk as it is used by many cars and pedestrians.

The Nara police failed to acknowledge the risk when drafting its security plan and examining it for final approval, resulting in the inappropriate positioning of guards and uniformed police officers on the scene.

Saying that security plans up until now were left up entirely to prefectural police, the agency will revise the existing national rules on guarding dignitaries, established in 1965 and amended in 1994. The new version will be put into effect Friday.

Under the new rules, the agency will gather necessary information related to security, including on terrorist activities in and outside Japan. The agency will also set detailed standards necessary for prefectural police in creating security plans.

The agency will check the plans, and prefectural police departments will be required to report how the plans were implemented.

The agency will create a new division in charge of checking such plans and assign people from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and other organizations well versed in security-related matters.

The agency will also beef up its own security system and increase the number of people sent by prefectural police to the agency for training.