Police in the city of Nakano, Japan, announced on Friday that they had apprehended a suspect after a bizarre shooting and stabbing rampage that killed four people, including two police officers. The suspect is reportedly the son of Aoki Masamichi, speaker of the Nakano city assembly.
Nakano police said they received a call on Thursday afternoon that a man chased a woman down and stabbed her with a foot-long knife.
“A woman came running from the road saying ‘help me’ and she fell down. Behind her came a man wearing camouflage and carrying a large knife, who stabbed her in the back,” said a 72-year-old eyewitness. The attacker then stabbed the woman in the chest.
“Why would you do such a thing?” the eyewitness asked. He said the camouflage-clad assailant replied: “I killed because I wanted to.”
The witness called for an ambulance while other onlookers tried to revive the woman, but they were unable to save her.
When police officers responded to the call, the assailant fatally shot two of them with a long gun, variously described as either a hunting rifle or a shotgun. One account of the shootings said the suspect walked up to a police car as it arrived on the scene and fired through the windows at point-blank range, killing the officers inside.
The attacker then fled into the home of assembly speaker Aoki Masamichi and barricaded himself inside for about 12 hours, while police with body armor and riot shields surrounded the home.
During the siege, officials determined the suspect was Aoki’s 31-year-old son Masanori, who local reporters described as “a grape farmer who owned a gelato shop in the neighborhood,” according to the BBC. Masanori’s mother and aunt fled from the house while he was holed up inside.
Nearby residents were told to remain indoors for the duration of the siege. About 80 local residents were taken to an evacuation shelter in a local junior high school.
Reporters on the scene said they heard gunshots around 8:00 p.m., but it was not clear who fired the shots. At roughly 4:30 in the morning, the police were able to persuade Aoki Masanori to surrender.
The fourth victim was an older woman who was found knifed to death near the Aoki house. A local resident told NHK News she was a close friend of the first murdered woman.
“Investigative sources say Aoki told police he carried out the knife attack because he thought he was being spoken ill of, and he shot the officers because he thought they might shoot him,” NHK reported.
“This is a heinous crime that has aroused great fear in the residents of the prefecture and society at large,” Nakano police chief Koyama Iwao said at a press conference on Friday morning.
Koyama said the two police officers and the woman onlookers tried to resuscitate all died in the hospital. The fourth victim evidently died at the scene, either immediately after she was stabbed or during the 12-hour siege. Koyama said the suspect immediately confessed to one of the police killings.
Kyodo News on Friday identified the woman stabbed to death before eyewitnesses as 66-year-old Murakami Yukie, a Nakano resident who lived not far from where she was killed. The slain police officers were Inspector Tamai Yoshiki, 46, and Sgt. Ikeuchi Takuo, 61, both male.
Gun crime is rare in Japan and guns are difficult for private citizens to obtain. National Public Safety Commission chair Tani Koichi said on Friday that Aoki Masanori had permits for both hunting rifles and air guns. He obtained the permits years ago without any difficulty and has renewed them annually.
One of the Aokis’ neighbors told NHK he spoke with the police five years ago when Masanori applied for his gun license. He recalled telling the officers that Masanori was an “ordinary person,” although he had grown more withdrawn and taciturn as he got older, keeping to himself and seeming content to work his grape farm.
Several incidents of mass violence and assassination have made headlines in Japan over the past year, including the fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in July 2022.
Last month, an unemployed 24-year-old man reportedly angered about the age-30 requirement for seeking parliamentary office in Japan threw a homemade pipe bomb at the current prime minister, Kishida Fumio. Kishida was not injured in the attack, although one of the police officers protecting him was. Police confiscated a cache of bomb-making materials when they raided the suspect’s home.
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