NARA, Japan (Reuters) – The man arrested for the murder of Shinzo Abe believed the former Japanese leader was linked to a religious group he blamed for his mother’s financial ruin and spent months planning the attack with a homemade weapon, police told local media on Saturday.
Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old jobless man, has been identified by police as the suspect who approached Japan’s longest-serving prime minister from behind and opened fire, an attack that was caught on camera and shocked a nation where armed violence is rare.
Skinny and bespectacled with shaggy hair, the suspect was seen walking down the road behind Abe, who was standing on a riser at an intersection, before discharging two rounds from a 40cm-long (16in) weapon shrouded of black adhesive tape. He was arrested by the 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 had made a “huge donation”, the Kyodo news agency said, citing investigative sources.
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He told police his mother went bankrupt because of the donation, the Yomiuri newspaper and other media reported.
“My mother ended up in a religious group and I resented it,” Kyodo and others said, citing police. Nara police declined to comment on details reported by Japanese media about Yamagami’s motive or preparation.
The media did not name the religious group he was allegedly upset with.
Yamagami rigged the weapon from parts purchased online, spending months planning the attack, even attending other Abe campaign events, including one the day before about 200 km (miles), the sources said. media.
He had considered a bombing before deciding on a gun, according to public broadcaster NHK.
The suspect told police he made weapons by wrapping steel pipes with duct tape, some of them with three, five or six pipes, with parts he bought online, a said NHK.
Police found bullet holes in a sign attached to a campaign van near the scene of the shooting and believe they came from Yamagami, police said Saturday. Videos showed Abe turning towards the striker after the first shot before collapsing 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 customers pay to drink and chat with hostesses. A karaoke bar has closed.
The elevator only stops at three floors, an economical design. Yamagami should have gone down and up a flight of stairs to his apartment.
A neighbor of his, a 69-year-old woman who lived one floor below him, saw him three days before Abe was murdered.
“I said hello but he ignored me. He was just looking at the ground to the side without wearing a mask. He seemed nervous,” the woman, who gave only her surname Nakayama, told Reuters. “It was like I was invisible. It seemed like something was bothering him.”
She pays 35,000 yen ($260) in rent a month and estimates that her neighbors pay about the same.
A Vietnamese woman living two doors down from Yamagami named Mai said he seemed to be left alone. “I saw him several times. I greeted him in the elevator, but he didn’t say anything.”
A person named Tetsuya Yamagami served in the Maritime Self-Defense Force from 2002 to 2005, a Japanese Navy spokesman said, declining to say if it was the suspected killer, as reported by media .
This Yamagami joined a training unit at Sasebo, a major naval base in the southwest, and was assigned to a destroyer artillery section, the spokesman said. He was then assigned to a training ship in Hiroshima.
“While on duty, members of the Self-Defense Force train with live ammunition once a year. They also do breakdowns and maintenance of weapons,” a senior navy officer told Reuters.
“But since they follow orders when they do, it’s hard to believe they acquire 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 weapons”.
Some time after leaving the navy, Yamagami registered with a recruitment company and, in late 2020, began working at a factory in Kyoto as a forklift operator, the Mainichi newspaper reported.
He had no problems until mid-April when he took time off work without permission and then told his boss he wanted to quit, the newspaper said. He used his vacation and finished on May 15.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly in Nara; Additional reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara and Nobuhiro Kubo, Chang-Ran Kim and Yukiko Toyoda in Tokyo; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by William Mallard)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.