NARA, Japan — Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere.
CORRECTS SECOND SENTENCE – Tetsuya Yamagami, center, holding a weapon, is detained near the site of gunshots in Nara, western Japan Friday, July 8, 2022. Yamagami is accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by opening fire on at him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech, an attack that stunned a nation that has some of the world’s toughest gun laws.(Nara Shimbun/Kyodo News via AP)
The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s longest-serving leader when he resigned in 2020, collapsed bleeding and was airlifted to a nearby hospital in Nara, although he was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was later pronounced dead after receiving massive blood transfusions, officials said.
Nara Medical University emergency department chief Hidetada Fukushima said Abe suffered major damage to his heart, along with two neck wounds that damaged an artery. He never regained his vital signs, Fukushima said.
Police at the shooting scene arrested Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy, on suspicion of murder. Police said he used a gun that was obviously homemade — about 15 inches long — and they confiscated similar weapons and his personal computer when they raided his nearby one-room apartment.
Police said Yamagami was responding calmly to questions and had admitted to attacking Abe, telling investigators he had plotted to kill him because he believed rumors about the former leader’s connection to a certain organization that police did not identify.
Tetsuya Yamagami, bottom, is detained near the site of gunshots in Nara Prefecture, western Japan, Friday, July 8, 2022. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a divisive arch-conservative and one of his nation’s most powerful and influential figures, has died after being shot during a campaign speech Friday in western Japan, hospital officials said. Nara prefectural police confirmed the arrest of Yamagami, 41, on suspicion of attempted murder of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.(Katsuhiko Hirano/The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP)
Dramatic video from broadcaster NHK showed Abe standing and giving a speech outside a train station ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election. As he raised his fist to make a point, two gunshots rang out, and he collapsed holding his chest, his shirt smeared with blood as security guards run toward him. Guards then leapt onto the gunman, who was face down on the pavement, and a double-barreled weapon was seen nearby.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Cabinet ministers hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events elsewhere after the shooting, which he called “dastardly and barbaric.”
“I use the harshest words to condemn (the act),” Kishida said, struggling to control his emotions.
Tributes to Abe poured in from world leaders, with many expressing shock and sorrow. U.S. President Biden praised him, saying “his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service.“