Abe died of excessive bleeding and was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m. local time, doctors at the Nara Medical University Hospital said Friday at a press conference. Doctors said the bullet that killed the former Japanese leader was ‘deep enough to hit his heart’ and a team of 20 medical professionals were unable to stop the bleeding.
Abe suffered cardiopulmonary arrest at the site of the shooting and was rushed to hospital in cardiac arrest at 12:20 p.m. local time, doctors said. During the operation, doctors discovered a gunshot wound to the neck and a large wound to the heart.
The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested at the scene and admitted shooting Abe, according to Nara Nishi police.
Abe, 67, was the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, serving from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020, before stepping down for health reasons. Since stepping down, he has remained in the public eye and has regularly appeared in the media to discuss current affairs.
At the time of the shooting, Abe was giving a speech in support of LDP candidates in the city of Nara ahead of the upcoming Upper House elections scheduled for Sunday.
The suspect apparently used a homemade weapon
Video released by NHK public broadcaster captured the moments before filming, showing Abe speaking to a small crowd outside Yamatosaidaiji Station. In the following videos, two gunshots can be heard and smoke can be seen in the air.
Photos show people gathered around the former leader as he lay in the street with what appeared to be bloodstains on his white shirt.
A Nara City Fire Department official told CNN on Friday that Abe was in a state of cardiorespiratory arrest, a term used to describe the sudden loss of heart function and breathing.
He was rushed to hospital by helicopter, where doctors began frantic efforts to keep him alive.
But Abe’s heart had stopped beating by the time he arrived at the hospital, doctors said.
The former chief was shot twice but medics could not determine the bullet’s trajectory.
During the operation, doctors struggled to stem the bleeding. “We took resuscitation measures, but (Abe) unfortunately passed away,” Hidenori Fukushima, a professor at Nara Medical University, told reporters.
Yamagami, who appears to have used a homemade weapon in the attack, has been arrested and charged with attempted murder, according to NHK.
He was detained for questioning at Nara Nishi Police Station.
At a press conference on Friday, Nara Nishi police said the 41-year-old suspect, who is unemployed, harbors hatred towards a certain group he believed Abe was connected to.
Police raided the suspect’s apartment at 5:17 p.m. local time, where they confiscated several pistol-like handicrafts, police said.
Yamagami is being investigated as a suspect in a murder case, to which 90 investigators have been assigned, police added.
Japan’s national police agency will review security arrangements for Abe, NHK reported on Saturday.
NHK reported that the police agency said Nara prefectural police had drawn up a security plan for the former prime minister during his stay in the city. Prefectural police and Tokyo Metropolitan Police security personnel had been on the lookout and reportedly observed Abe from all sides during his speech, NHK reported.
Several dozen officers, including plainclothes police from Nara Prefecture and a specially assigned member of the Tokyo police force, were on duty, NHK reported.
World leaders horrified by assassination
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent his “sincere condolences” to former leader Abe, saying he “was a personal friend, with whom (he) spent a lot of time”.
Kishida said he had “great respect for the (Abe) legacy left behind” and would continue the election campaign on Saturday, adding that a free and fair election must be defended at all costs.
“While there are many details that we do not yet know, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that armed violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities affected by it. The United States is alongside Japan in this time of mourning,” the US president said in a statement.
Later Friday, Biden ordered American flags at the White House and other federal grounds flown at half-mast through Sunday in recognition of Abe’s death.
“I mourn with his family, his friends and all the Japanese people. This brutal and cowardly murder of Shinzo Abe shocks the whole world,” she said.
After Abe was shot but before his death was confirmed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent its condolences to Abe’s family. “We are following the developments and hope former Prime Minister Abe is out of danger and recovers soon. We would certainly like to send our regards to his family,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a conference. press Friday afternoon.
Gun crime in Japan
Abe’s killing shocked Japan, which has one of the lowest gun crime rates in the world due to its extremely strict gun control laws.
Last year, Japan reported just one gun death and a total of 10 firearm-related incidents, according to the National Police Agency.
Eight of the 10 reported were gang-related, the agency added.
In 2018, Japan reported nine gun deaths, compared to 39,740 that year in the United States.
Under Japanese firearms laws, the only firearms allowed for sale are shotguns and air rifles – handguns are prohibited. But getting a gun is a long and complicated process.
Nancy Snow, Japan director of the International Security Industrial Council, told CNN Friday’s shooting would change the country “forever.”
“It’s not only rare, but it’s really culturally unfathomable,” Snow said. “The Japanese people cannot imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I really feel at a loss for words. I pray for the best for the old Prime Minister.”
CNN’s Emiko Jozuka, Irene Nasser, Mayumi Maruyama, Jessie Yeung and Jake Kwon contributed reporting.