NARA — Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, was addressing the crowds and campaigning for a local candidate just moments before he was fatally shot from behind on Friday.
As Abe spoke on Friday morning in front of the Yamato-Saidaiji Station in the western city of Nara, security appeared to be lax, as is typical in Japan, where violent crime is uncommon and guns are scarce.
No roads were closed off, and as Abe addressed the crowd of a few hundred people, a bus and a van passed by behind his exposed back. Two scooters with helmeted riders turned in front of him. Someone waved enthusiastically in recognition at Japan’s longest-serving premier from inside a passing hatchback car.
This narrative is based on video that Reuters was able to obtain and interviews with three witnesses.
Abe appealed to the crowd, many of whom were older, to re-elect Kei Sato, a candidate in Sunday’s upper house election, while wearing a dark jacket despite the summer heat.
Some people used their phones to take pictures while others wiped the sweat from their brows.
As Abe praised Sato’s pandemic response, members of Japan’s elite Security Police, the country’s equivalent of the secret service, could be seen standing to his right and directly behind him.
The younger politician bowed and waved as Abe said, “During the pandemic, he heard everyone’s concerns. He was the sort of person who didn’t consider any contraindications before acting.
They were to be the former premier’s final words in front of the public.
A wiry man in beige cargo pants and glasses strode into the road behind him. A white smoke cloud blew towards Abe and the crowd as he fired with a homemade gun that appeared to be wrapped in black electrical tape.
Takenobu Nakajima, a local printer and supporter of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said, “When the first shot went off, I thought it was fireworks.”
It was almost like a wind gust.
Abe initially seemed unaffected. Tetsuya Yamagami, a 41-year-old ex-marine and member of Japan’s maritime self-defense forces, opened fire once more almost immediately.
“OUT OF NOTHING”
Businessman Makoto Ichikawa, who had been waiting for his wife close to the train station, claimed that Yamagami had appeared “out of nowhere on to the middle of the road.”
Nobody knew what was going on when the first shot was fired, Ichikawa claimed. Following the second shot, Security Police personnel tackled Yamagami and put him to the ground. His gray shirt rode up, revealing a silver-buttoned black belt. He wore a mask, just like the majority of the crowd.
Before Yamagami was tackled, there seemed to be a pause of 10–20 seconds, according to Nakajima. Yamagami was identified by Nara police as soon as the first shot was fired, they told reporters. They wouldn’t say whether or not security had been lax.
Abe, 67, was already sprawled out on the ground. His crisp white shirt had blood stains, as seen in media footage.
The mayor of Tenri city in Nara, Ken Namikawa, was present to support Sato, a local politician who had been a classmate in college. Namikawa claimed to have rushed over to one of the campaign vehicles and seized a microphone, according to Reuters.
As he began to address the crowd, he yelled out, “Are there any doctors or nurses here?” A nurse sprinted over and joined the group helping Abe.
A heart massage was given by at least one person.
Namikawa told Reuters, “I was the one who spoke up, but I don’t think I did anything special.
In a series of tweets, Sato, a member of Abe’s faction in the ruling party, denounced violence. On the last day of the campaign, he said, we would take part in street speeches.
Despite receiving more than 100 units of blood in transfusions over the course of four hours, doctors later claimed that Abe bled to death as a result of deep wounds to the heart and the right side of his neck.
Ichikawa claimed Yamagami’s face struck him as he fired at the former premier.
It was merely a typical expression, he claimed. (Written by David Dolan; edited by Nick Macfie and Chizu Nomiyama; reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Nara; additional reporting by Sakura Murakami, Sam Nussey, and the Reuters Tokyo bureau;