A man has been arrested following the shooting and stabbing deaths of four persons in Japan. In Nagano prefecture, the alleged attacker stabbed a woman and shot two police officers with a hunting rifle. Later, a fourth fatality was confirmed.
The perpetrator is Masanori Aoki, the 31-year-old son of a local politician, according to the police. Despite the murder of ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July of last year, gun violence in Japan remains extremely uncommon. Even more uncommon is the shooting of multiple police officers, with the last incident occurring more than 30 years ago.
According to the Japanese sources, police received a call at approximately 16:25 (07:25 GMT) on Thursday about a man who had chased and then wounded a woman. An eyewitness laboring in a nearby field told Kyodo that the man attacked his first victim with a blade approximately 30 centimeters (1 foot) long. His motivation is unclear. When queried by the witness why he had stabbed the woman, the suspect allegedly responded, "I killed her because I wanted to."
Mr. Aoki allegedly opened fire on responding police officers while wearing a camouflage uniform, a hat, eyewear, and a mask. It was not immediately obvious how the fourth individual, a senior female, had died. Together with his mother and aunt, Mr. Aoki later barricaded himself for nearly 12 hours inside his father's home in a calm residential area of the city of Nakano. His father, Masamichi Aoki, is the assembly speaker for the city of Nakano.
Another footage depicted police vehicles and ambulances near the residence. Police officers donning body armor and carrying shields surrounded the residence with a 300-meter exclusion zone.
Japanese sources reported that hours later, the suspect's mother and aunt were seen fleeing the home. The suspect was apprehended shortly after leaving his residence early on Friday morning. According to local sources, Mr. Aoki was a grape farmer who operated a gelato shop.
Residents were exhorted to remain at home via email and the neighborhood's loudspeaker, and police also knocked on doors. In the evening local media sources aired footage of gunfire heard shortly after 20:00 local time (11:00 GMT) on Thursday evening. As the local school was about to close, some residents were forced to spend the night elsewhere. But after the arrest, individuals were instructed to continue with their day.
Social media users in Japan have expressed astonishment and outrage at the incident, with one calling it a "unforgivable crime." Another user questioned whether the nation should be prepared for additional attacks of this nature. Authorities mentioned that the suspect had a firearm permit.
Only hunting rifles and airguns may be owned by civilians under Japan's stringent gun ownership laws. To purchase a firearm in Japan, individuals must pass a rigorous exam and mental health screening. The last incident in which multiple police officers were slain occurred in 1990, when two officers were shot and killed by gang members in Okinawa prefecture.
Abe was Japan's longest-serving prime minister, and his murder shook a nation where handguns are prohibited and political violence is rare. In 2014, only six people were killed by firearms in Japan, compared to 33,599 in the United States.