Flowers, water bottles and a framed photograph of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 9, 2022 near the crime scene where he was shot dead during a political event in Nara, Japan. The incident was one of the most prominent acts of political violence in Japan since World War II.
Kosuke Okahara | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The man arrested for the Shinzo Abe assassination believed the former Japanese leader was linked to a religious group he blamed on his mother’s financial ruin and spent months planning the attack with a homemade gun, he said. Saturday police in local media.
Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old unemployed man, was identified by police as the suspect who approached Japan’s oldest prime minister from behind and opened fire, an attack that was captured on video and shocked a nation where armed violence is rare.
The suspect was seen entering the road behind Abe, who was standing on a counter at an intersection, before unloading two shots from a 40-cm-long (16-inch) gun wrapped in black tape. He was approached by police at the scene.
Yamagami was a loner who did not respond when spoken to, neighbors told Reuters. He believed Abe had promoted a religious group to which his mother made a “large donation,” the Kyodo news agency said, citing sources in the investigation.
He told police his mother went bankrupt because of the donation, Yomiuri newspaper and other media reported.
“My mother got involved in a religious group and bothered me,” Kyodo and other people told police.
Nara police declined to comment on details reported by Japanese media about Yamagami’s motive or preparation.
The media has not named the religious group with which it is reported that he was upset.
The Yamagami jury handled the weapon from pieces purchased online, spending months planning the attack, even attending other Abe campaign events, including a day earlier about 200 km (miles) from distance, the media said.
A bomb attack had been raised before opting for a gun, according to public broadcaster NHK.
The suspect told police he made guns by wrapping steel tubes along with duct tape, some of them with three, five or six tubes, with parts he bought online, NHK said.
Police found bullet holes in a sign attached to a campaign van near the site of the shooting and believe they were from Yamagami, police said Saturday. The videos showed Abe turning towards the attacker after the first shot before falling to the ground after the second.
Yamagami lived on the eighth floor of a small apartment building. The ground floor is full of bars where guests pay to drink and chat with the hostesses. A karaoke bar has run out of business.
The elevator stops on just three floors, a cost-saving design. Yamagami would have had to go down and up some stairs to his apartment.
One of his neighbors, a 69-year-old woman who lived an apartment below him, saw him three days before Abe’s murder.
“I greeted him, but he ignored me. He was just looking at the ground to one side without wearing a mask. He looked nervous,” the woman, who only put her last name Nakayama, told Reuters. “It was like he was invisible. It seemed like something was bothering him.”
He pays 35,000 yen ($ 260) a month in rent and estimates his neighbors pay about the same.
A Vietnamese woman who lived two doors down from Yamagami who gave her name as Mai, said she seemed to be left alone. “I saw him a couple of times. I bowed to him in the elevator, but he didn’t say anything.”
Experience with a Navy weapon
A person named Tetsuya Yamagami served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force from 2002 to 2005, a Japanese navy spokesman said, refusing to say whether he was the alleged killer, as reported by the media.
This Yamagami joined a training unit at Sasebo, a major naval base in the southwest, and was assigned to a section of destroyer artillery, the spokesman said. He was later assigned to a school ship in Hiroshima.
“During their service, members of the Self-Defense Force train with live ammunition once a year. They also do breakdowns and maintain weapons,” a senior naval officer told Reuters.
“But because they follow orders when they do, it’s hard to believe they have enough knowledge to be able to make weapons,” he said. Even army soldiers who serve “for a long time do not know how to make guns.”
Some time after leaving the Navy, Yamagami registered with a personnel company and in late 2020 began working at a Kyoto factory as a forklift operator, the Mainichi newspaper reported.
He had no problems until mid-April, when he was absent from work without permission and then told his boss he wanted to resign, the newspaper said. He ran out of vacation and ended up on May 15th.