Abe died of excessive bleeding and was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m. local time, doctors at Nara Medical University hospital said at a news conference Friday. Doctors said the bullet that killed the former Japanese leader was “deep enough to reach his heart” and a team of 20 medical professionals failed to stop the bleeding.
Abe went into cardiac arrest at the scene of the shooting and was taken to hospital with cardiac arrest at 12:20 p.m. local time, doctors said. During the surgery, doctors discovered a gunshot wound to his neck and a large wound on his heart.
The suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested at the scene and admitted to shooting Abe, Nara Nishi police said.
Abe, 67, was the former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, in office from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020, before resigning due to health reasons. Since his resignation, he has remained in the public eye and regularly appeared in the media to discuss current affairs.
At the time of the shooting, Abe was making a speech in support of LDP candidates in the city of Nara ahead of the upcoming upper house elections scheduled for Sunday.
Suspect apparently used homemade weapon
Video broadcast by public broadcaster NHK captured the moments before the shooting, showing Abe speaking to a small crowd in front of Yamatosaidaiji train station. In subsequent 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, bloodstained on his white shirt.
A Nara City Fire Department official told CNN earlier on Friday that Abe was in a state of cardiac arrest, a term used to describe the sudden loss of heart function and breathing.
He was taken to hospital by helicopter, where medics began frantic efforts to keep him alive.
But Abe’s heart had stopped beating by the time he reached the hospital, the doctors said.
The former leader had two gunshot wounds, but doctors were unable to determine the trajectory of the bullets.
During the surgery, doctors struggled to control the bleeding. “We took resuscitation measures, but unfortunately (Abe) died,” Hidenori Fukushima, a professor at Nara Medical University, told reporters.
Shortly before 6 a.m. local time on Saturday, a car believed to be carrying his body left the hospital, NHK reported.
Yamagami, who appeared 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.
Speaking at a press conference Friday, Nara Nishi police said the 41-year-old suspect, who is unemployed, harbors hatred for a particular group he believed to be Abe’s relatives.
Police raided the suspect’s apartment at 5:17 p.m. local time, where they seized several handmade gun-like items, police said.
Yamagami is under investigation as a suspect in a murder case, which has been assigned 90 investigators, police added.
Japan’s national police station will review security measures for Abe, NHK reported on Saturday.
NHK reported that the police station said Nara Prefectural Police had prepared a security plan for the former prime minister while he was in the city. Prefecture police officers and Tokyo Metropolitan Police security personnel had been on the lookout and reportedly watched Abe from all sides during his speech, NHK reported.
Several dozen officers, including plainclothes police officers from Nara Prefecture and specially assigned Tokyo police personnel, were on duty, NHK reported.
World leaders shocked by murder
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed his “deep condolences” to former leader Abe, saying he was “a personal friend with whom he spent a lot of time”.
Kishida said he has “great respect for the legacy (Abe) he has left” and that he would continue the election campaign on Saturday, adding that free and fair elections must be defended at all costs.
“While there are many details we don’t know yet, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities affected by it. The United States stands behind Japan in this moment of grief” the US president said in a statement.
Later on Friday, Biden ordered American flags at the White House and other federal grounds to be flown at half-mast until Sunday in recognition of Abe’s death.
“I mourn his family, his friends and all the people of Japan. This brutal and cowardly murder of Shinzo Abe shocked the whole world,” she said.
After Abe was shot, but before his death was confirmed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry extended its condolences to Abe’s family. “We are monitoring the developments and we hope that former Prime Minister Abe will be out of danger and recover quickly. We certainly want to send our regards to his family,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a news conference on Friday afternoon.
Japan’s low gun crime rate
The murder of Abe has shocked Japan, which has one of the lowest gun crime rates in the world due to its extremely strict gun laws.
Last year, Japan reported just one death from firearms and a total of 10 firearms-related incidents, the National Police Agency said.
Eight of the 10 reported were gang-related, the agency added.
In 2018, Japan reported nine deaths from firearms, compared to 39,740 that year in the United States.
Under Japanese firearms laws, shotguns and air rifles are the only weapons allowed for sale. Handguns are prohibited. But getting a gun is a long and complicated process.
Nancy Snow, Japan’s director of the International Security Industrial Council, told CNN Friday’s shooting will change the country “forever.”
“Not only is it rare, but it’s really culturally inscrutable,” Snow said. “The Japanese people cannot imagine having a gun culture like we have in the United States. This is a speechless moment. I am really out of words. I pray for the best for the former prime minister.”
Emiko Jozuka, Irene Nasser, Mayumi Maruyama, Jessie Yeung and Jake Kwon of CNN reported.