Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed while giving a speech on a street in Nara, western Japan, on Friday morning, hospital officials confirmed hours later. He was 67.
According to authorities, the alleged assassin thought the politician belonged to a “specific organization” and that the shooter’s motives were not political.
Moments after allegedly opening fire on the former leader, the suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, was tackled to the ground by security. The shooter’s black, double-barreled rifle — allegedly homemade — was discovered at his feet.
While being interrogated by detectives, Yamagami allegedly admitted to planning to assassinate Abe because he believed the former prime minister was affiliated with a group with which he had a conflict.
The organization’s name and specific beliefs were withheld by the police, who also said it was unclear whether the group even existed. Police stated that the assassin’s resentments were unrelated to the former prime minister’s politics.
Yamagami appeared composed while answering questions during his interview, and the police said they are still attempting to determine whether he acted alone.
The first shot was fired as Abe was beginning his speech. As the second shot was fired, the politician could be seen grabbing his chest and stumbling to the ground slowly.
Fumio Kishida, the acting prime minister of Japan, said at an emotional press conference earlier on Friday that Abe was in “serious condition” but he was hopeful Abe would survive.
According to Japanese media agencies Kyodo News and NHK, Abe was rushed away from the scene of the shooting unconscious and in cardiac arrest with no vital signs.
Around five and a half hours after being brought to the hospital and receiving more than 100 blood transfusions, Abe was declared dead. Deep wounds to the heart and the right side of his neck caused him to bleed to death, according to the authorities.
After news spread that Abe was killed, President Joe Biden, former U.S. presidents, members of Congress, and other officials expressed shock and offered their condolences.
In a statement Friday morning, Biden said he was “stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened” by Abe’s murder, calling it a tragedy for Japan. During the Obama administration, Biden and Abe collaborated closely and met in Tokyo and Washington.
Biden said, “He was a champion of the Alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people. The longest-serving Japanese Prime Minister, his vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific will endure. Above all, he cared deeply about the Japanese people and dedicated his life to their service. Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy.”
Former President Donald Trump wrote on his Truth Social website: “Few people know what a great man and leader Shinzo Abe was, but history will teach them and be kind. He was a unifier like no other, but above all, he was a man who loved and cherished his magnificent country, Japan. Shinzo Abe will be greatly missed. There will never be another like him!”
Former President Barack Obama posted a series of tweets saying he was “shocked and saddened” by the assassination of his friend.
“Former Prime Minister Abe was devoted to both the country he served and the extraordinary alliance between the United States and Japan,” he said. “I will always remember the work we did to strengthen our alliance, the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together, and the grace he and his wife Akie Abe showed to me and Michelle.”
Former President George W. Bush said he “found him to be a decent and caring man,” adding that Abe was “a true patriot of his country who wanted to continue serving it.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks during the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, that Abe’s assassination was “profoundly disturbing” and that Abe “was a leader with great vision” and “was doing remarkable work even after being prime minister.”
“Tragic loss of one of Japan’s leading statesmen,” Texas Senator John Cornyn wrote on Twitter, sharing a photograph.
In a statement, Florida Senator Rick Scott said he was outraged.
“Prime Minister Abe was an unapologetic believer in the power of democracy and one of the strongest voices in support of freedom across the Info-Pacific. He was particularly a champion for peace through strength, and stood up for Taiwan against Communist China’s aggression.”