Japan Police Chief Takes Responsibility for Shinzo Abe Assassination, Admits Security Lapses

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
July 9, 2022 Updated: July 9, 2022

The police chief of the Nara prefecture where former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was killed admitted security lapses that allowed the assassin to get close enough to fire the deadly shots from a homemade gun, saying he feels a “grave sense of responsibility.”

Nara prefectural police chief Tomoaki Onizuka told a press conference on July 9 that it’s clear there were shortcomings in his own approved plan for securing the event at which Abe was gunned down.

“As the regional police chief responsible for safety and security of the region, I took necessary steps and built structures for security and guarding,” he said. “I believe it is undeniable that there were problems with the guarding and safety measures.”

“I feel a grave sense of responsibility,” he added, while vowing to conduct a thorough review and implement any necessary changes to cut the risk of a similar future tragedy.

Epoch Times Photo
Nara prefectural police chief Tomoaki Onizuka bows at the start of a press conference in Nara, Japan, on July 9, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP)

“Whether it was a setup, emergency response, or ability of individuals, we still have to find out. Overall, there was a problem and we will review it from every perspective,” he said.

After it became clear that Abe had been shot, Onizuka said he felt the biggest sense of guilt and regret in his 27 years in law enforcement.

‘He Seemed Nervous’

Abe was shot Friday while on the campaign trail giving a speech.

The accused killer, 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami, was seen in videos shown on Japanese television and on social media calmly approaching Abe from behind and firing two shots from what looked like a sawed-off shotgun wrapped in black tape.

Footage aired by Japanese broadcaster NHK captured the moment Abe fell on the street, clutching his chest.

He was rushed to the hospital and later pronounced dead.

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Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe lies on the ground after being shot in Nara, western Japan, on July 8, 2022. (Kyodo via Reuters)
Japan Abe Shot
Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) falls on the ground in Nara, western Japan, on July 8, 2022. (Kyodo News via AP)

After a scramble, the gunman was tackled by Abe’s security detail and taken into custody.

Japanese media reported that Yamagami had assembled the weapon from parts he bought online and spent months planning the assassination and that he had considered using a bomb instead of a gun.

Police told local media on July 9 that Yamagami said he was motivated by resentment centered on the belief that Abe was linked to a religious group that the accused assassin blamed for his mother’s financial problems.

One of Yamagami’s neighbors, a 69-year-old woman who lived a floor below him in an apartment building, told Reuters that she saw him three days before Abe’s assassination.

“I said hello but he ignored me. He was just looking down at the ground to the side not wearing a mask. He seemed nervous,” said the woman, who gave only her surname Nakayama.

“It was like I was invisible. He seemed like something was bothering him,” she said.

‘Necessary to Investigate’

A former Kyoto prefectural police investigator, Fumikazu Higuchi, said that videos of the attack suggested security was sparse at the event.

“It is necessary to investigate why security allowed Yamagami to freely move and go behind Mr. Abe,” Higuchi told a Nippon TV talk show.

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A man, believed to be a suspect in shooting former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is held by police officers at Yamato Saidaiji Station in Nara, Nara prefecture, on July 8, 2022. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via Reuters)
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A police officer detains a man, believed to have shot former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Nara, western Japan, on July 8, 2022. (The Asahi Shimbun/via Reuters)

Experts told the Associated Press that Abe was more vulnerable standing on the ground level rather than atop of a campaign vehicle, as would normally have been the case but was reportedly unavailable due to his hastily arranged visit to Nara.

“Looks like police were mainly focusing on frontward, while paying little attention to what’s behind Mr. Abe, and nobody stopped the suspect approaching him,” Mitsuru Fukuda, a crisis management professor at Nihon University, told the Associated Press.

“Clearly there were problems.”

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'