TOKYO -- A gunman opened fire from behind on Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister, as he gave a speech in campaign -- an attack that shocked a country with strict gun control laws.
Abe, a 67-year old leader in Japan, collapsed and was flown to Nara. His heart stopped and he wasn't breathing. Officials later declared him dead after he received massive blood transfusions.
Abe's body was carried by a hearse from the hospital to return to Tokyo. As the vehicle passed in front of a group of journalists, Abe's wife Akie lowered herself.
Hidetada Fukushima, Nara Medical University's chief emergency department, said Abe sustained major heart damage and two neck injuries that caused an artery to burst. Fukushima stated that Abe never recovered his vital signs.
Tetsuya Nagami, 41, was arrested by police at the scene of the shooting. He is a former member in Japan's navy. When they raided his one-room apartment, they found similar weapons and a computer that were clearly homemade.
Yamagami, according to police, was answering calmly to questions. He also admitted to attacking Abe. According to investigators, he told them he had planned to kill Abe because he believed rumors that the former leader had connections to an organization that police didn't identify.
NHK broadcast dramatic video of Abe giving a speech in front of a train station before Sunday's parliamentary elections. Two gunshots rang out as he raised his fist in order to make a point. He collapsed on his stomach, his shirt stained with blood, and security guards raced towards him. The gunman was lying on the ground, with his face facing down, when security guards jumped onto him. A double-barreled weapon could be seen nearby.
After the shooting, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida returned to Tokyo with his Cabinet ministers. He promised that the election which selects members of Japan's lower-powering upper house of parliament would continue as planned.
Kishida, trying to control his emotions, said that he used the most harsh words to condemn the act. While he said that the government would examine the security situation, he added that Abe was the most protected.
Although he was no longer in office, Abe was still a strong influence within the Liberal Democratic Party. He headed the largest faction of Seiwakai and was a leader of its largest faction. However, his ultra-nationalist views made him an unpopular figure.
Leaders of the opposition condemned the attack as a threat to Japan's democracy. Kenta Izumi of the top opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan called it "an act of terror" and stated that it tried to "quail the freedom of speech...actually causing a situation in which (Abe’s) speech cannot be heard again."
People stopped in Tokyo to purchase extra newspapers and watch television coverage of the shooting. Nara's shooting scene was graced with flowers.
Abe blamed his resignation as prime minister on a recurrence in ulcerative colitis that he had suffered since he was a teenager. Abe said that it was hard to let many of his goals go unfinished. He cited his failure to resolve the Japanese abduction by North Korea years ago, a territorial dispute between Russia and Japan, and to revise Japan's war-renouncing Constitution.
This ultra-nationalism angered China and Koreas, and Abe's push to establish a normal defense posture angered many Japanese. Poor public support prevented Abe from achieving his beloved goal of officially rewriting the U.S.-drafted, pacifist constitution.
Loyalists claimed that his legacy was a stronger U.S.–Japan relationship, which was meant to strengthen Japan's defense capabilities. Abe, despite public opposition, forced his defense goals through parliament.
Abe was raised to follow the example of his grandfather, Nobusukekishi, who was also a former Prime Minister. His political rhetoric was often focused on Japan as a normal and beautiful nation, with a stronger military and a larger role in international affairs.
Many world leaders paid tribute to Abe, many of them expressing shock and sadness. U.S. President Joe Biden praised Abe, saying that "his vision for a free Indo-Pacific will last." He was deeply concerned about the Japanese people, and devoted his entire life to their welfare.
Biden called Kishida on Saturday to express outrage, sadness, and deep condolences regarding the shooting death Abe. Biden emphasized the importance of Abe’s legacy, including the creation of the Quad meetings between the U.S.A, Australia, India, and Japan. Biden expressed confidence in Japan's democratic strength and the leaders discussed how Abe’s legacy will be preserved as the allies continue to defend democracy and peace, according to White House.
Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her tenure between 2005-21 was largely similar to Abe's. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Saturday to be a day for national mourning and U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted that Guterres would remember Abe for his "collegiality and commitment towards multilateralism."
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, declined to comment. Zhao stated that Beijing had offered sympathy to Abe's family but that it didn't believe the shooting should be connected to bilateral relations. However, social media posts were negative. Some called the gunman a hero on social media -- indicating strong sentiment against right-wing Japanese politicians that question or deny that Japan committed wartime atrocities to China.
Biden, who is currently dealing with the aftermath of a series of mass shootings in America, said that "gun violence always leaves deep scars on those communities that are affected."
Japan is known for its strict gun laws. According to police, Japan has only 10 gun-related criminal instances last year. This resulted in one death and four other injuries. Eight of these cases were gang-related. Tokyo was free from gun-related injuries, deaths, or incidents in the same year. However, 61 guns were seized.
Abe was proud for his efforts to strengthen Japan's security alliance and to shepherd the first U.S. president to Hiroshima, which had been atom bombed. Abe also helped Tokyo win the right to host 2020 Olympics by promising that the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster would be "under control", when in fact it wasn't.
At 52 years old, he became Japan's youngest prime minster. However, his first stint as a nationalist was abruptly ended one year later due to his health.
Abe's scandal-ridden first tenure as prime minister ended. This was the beginning six years of leadership changes, which are remembered as an era that saw "revolving door" politics and lacked stability.
Abe, who combined fiscal stimulus, monetary ease, and structural reforms, returned to power in 2012.
Six national elections were won by him, and he held a firm grip on power. This allowed Japan to strengthen its defense capabilities and security alliance with the U.S. He also increased Japan's international visibility and patriotic education in schools.
Follow AP's Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific