TOKYO — The police arrested the 31-year-old son of a local lawmaker on Friday in connection with an assault that left four people dead, according to police.
The first three victims died at a hospital. The gunman, who was wearing camouflage clothing, a mask and sunglasses, stabbed the woman and then opened fire with what appeared to be a hunting rifle when police arrived, reports said.
The officers, who weren’t wearing bulletproof vests when they arrived on the scene, were identified as Yoshiki Tamai, 46, and Takuo Ikeuchi, 61. The woman who was stabbed and later pronounced dead was identified as Yukie Murakami, 66.
A fourth person injured in the attack, Yasuko Takeuchi, 70, was unable to be recovered from the scene until after police apprehended the attacker, when she was pronounced dead, according to local media.
Police said the building the attacker barricaded himself inside the home of his father, the assembly speaker. Television images showed police in bulletproof vests near the building with an ambulance nearby.
A woman — reportedly the mother of the suspect — escaped from the building where the attacker was holed up, and was placed under police protection. She was later followed by her sister, the attacker’s aunt, who fled in the early hours of the morning.
Gun crimes are extremely rare in Japan, where firearms are strictly regulated. The fatal shooting of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at a campaign event last year with a homemade weapon shocked the country.
Anyone trying to get a gun in Japan needs to apply for a permit, attend a class on gun safety and laws, and pass a written test. There is a full-day training course on safe shooting techniques.
There are multiple rounds of checks and verification on the gun owner’s background and health, including information about their family, mental health, personal debt and criminal record. The gun must be registered with and inspected by police. Aoki had a permit for his gun.
Last year, nine shootings, causing four deaths and two injuries, were recorded in the country. Six of the shootings involved the yakuza criminal network, according to the National Police Agency.
The last time multiple police officers were killed in Japan was in 1990 in Okinawa prefecture, when two plainclothes officers were mistakenly killed as part of an ongoing gang war.
Joyce Lau contributed reporting from Seoul.