TOKYO – Police on Friday raided the home of the man suspected of using an improvised firearm to kill former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and said they seized multiple weapons that also appeared to be homemade.
The discovery followed the arrest of the suspect — identified by officials as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41 — in the western Japanese city of Nara, where Abe had delivered a campaign speech ahead of this weekend’s parliamentary election.
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 more than 12 inches (30 cm) long.
“We are conducting forensic investigations, but it clearly looks homemade,” a Nara police chief said at a news conference.
Police said several weapons were also found at Yamagami’s residence and were similar to the firearm believed to have been used to shoot Abe. They added that it was unclear whether the suspect had the appropriate permits for the weapons.
The death of Abe, Japan’s longest-serving leader before he stepped down in 2020 due to health problems, has stunned a country where gun violence is extremely rare.
Japan, a country of approximately 125.8 million people, has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. There were only 10 shootings in 2021, killing one person and injuring four, according to national authorities National Police Station† Most shootings each year are related to Japan’s organized crime, the agency added.
Witnesses at Friday’s scene described a “loud bang and then smoke” caused by the first shot, Reuters reported:† Dramatic videos showed Abe raising his fist just before the shots rang out. He fell to the ground with bloodstains on his white shirt and bystanders coming to his aid.
“At the first shot no one knew what was going on, but after the second shot what appeared to be special police was dealt with,” said a witness.
Abe was transported to Nara Medical University Hospital after cardiac and lung 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 am ET.
Yamagami was arrested at the scene and is under investigation for the attack, police said. He confessed to the attack, they said, adding that he told them he held a grudge against a group he believed had ties to Abe.
Improvised firearms, also known as zip guns, aren’t complicated to build and require parts that can be easily purchased and ingredients to make homemade gunpowder, said John DeCarlo, a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven and former chief of police. the police force in Branford, Connecticut.
“You can pretty easily build a go-kart instead of a car with corrupted parts,” DeCarlo said. “It’s the same with guns.”
Instructions to make zip guns can be accessed online, he added. But such weapons are rare in countries like the United States, where tens of thousands of people are affected by gun violence each year because commercially manufactured 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.