Homemade weapons are seized in raid on suspect’s home of shooting Abe, police say

TOKYO — Police raided the home of the man suspected of using an improvised firearm to assassinate former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday and said they seized several weapons that also appeared to be homemade.

The discovery follows the arrest of the suspect – identified by officials as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41 – in the western Japanese city of Nara, where Abe had given a campaign speech outside before the election legislative this weekend.

Local media captured videos and photos of the bulky weapon that police say was used to kill Abe. They confirmed that the firearm consists of two metal barrels attached to a wooden board and is over a foot long.

“We are conducting a forensic investigation, but it clearly seems homemade,” a Nara police chief told a news conference.

Police said several weapons were also found at Yamagami’s home that were similar to the gun that was allegedly used to shoot Abe. They added that it was unclear whether the suspect had the appropriate weapons licenses.

The shooting death of Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader before stepping down in 2020 due to ill health, has stunned a nation where gun violence is extremely rare.

An improvised weapon was thrown near the scene of Friday's killing.
An improvised weapon was thrown near the scene of Friday’s killing. via NHK

Japan, a country of approximately 125.8 million people, has one of the strictest gun laws in the world. There have been just 10 shootings in 2021, with one person killed and four injured, according to the country’s National Police Agency. The majority of shootings each year are linked to Japanese organized crime, the agency added.

Witnesses at the scene on Friday described a “loud bang and then smoke” triggered by the first shot, Reuters reported. In dramatic videos, Abe could be seen raising his fist just before the knocks rang out. He collapsed to the ground with blood staining his white shirt and bystanders rushed to his aid.

“The first shot, no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot, what looked like special policemen attacked” the suspect, a witness said.

Image:
Tetsuya Yamagami is being held near the site where former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead.Katsuhiko Hirano/AP

Abe was rushed to Nara Medical University Hospital after suffering cardio and pulmonary arrest. Doctors said he had two gunshot wounds and no vital signs when he arrived less than an hour after the shooting. He was pronounced dead at 4:03 a.m. ET.

Yamagami was arrested at the scene and is being investigated for the attack, police said. He confessed to the attack, they said, adding that he told them he harbored a grudge against a group he believed to be linked to Abe.

The improvised firearms, also known as slide guns, are not complicated to build and require parts that can be easily purchased and ingredients to make homemade gunpowder, said John DeCarlo, professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven and former chief of police. in Branford, Connecticut.

“You can build a go-kart instead of a car quite easily using bastard parts,” DeCarlo said. “It’s the same with firearms. »

Instructions for making slide guns are available online, he added. But such weapons are not prevalent in countries like the United States, where tens of thousands of people are affected by gun violence each year, because commercially produced weapons are easier to buy.

“You don’t see them here often,” DeCarlo said.

Arata Yamamoto reported from Tokyo and Erik Ortiz from New York.

CORRECTION (July 9, 2022, 12:48 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the surname of the suspect accused of killing former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He is Tetsuya Yamagami, not Tetsuya Yamagishi.

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