Japanese police chief resigns after Abe . shooting

TOKYO — Japan’s national police chief said on Thursday he will step down to take responsibility for the security flaws that an investigation by his own agency found failed to adequately protect former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from a deadly shooting during a shooting attack. campaign speech last month.

The announcement from National Police Chief Itaru Nakamura came as his agency released a report blaming deficiencies in police protection — from planning to on-site surveillance — leading to the July 8 murder of Abe in Nara in Nara. western Japan.

Nakamura said he took the death of the former prime minister seriously and submitted his resignation to the National Public Safety Commission earlier Thursday.

“To fundamentally re-examine surveillance and never let this happen, we need a new system,” Nakamura told a news conference when he announced his intention to step down.

Nakamura did not say when his resignation would be official. Japanese media reported that his resignation is expected to be approved at Friday’s cabinet meeting.

The alleged gunman, Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested at the scene and is currently undergoing mental evaluation until the end of November. Yamagami told police he targeted Abe because of the former leader’s affiliation with the Unification Church, which he hated.

Abe sent a video message to a church-affiliated group last year, which experts say infuriated the suspect in the shooting.

In a 54-page investigative report released Thursday, the National Police Agency concluded that the protection plan for Abe neglected the potential danger from behind him and focused only on risks as he moved from the scene of his speech to his vehicle.

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Deficiencies in the command system, communication between several key police officers, and their focus in the areas behind Abe on the campaign grounds led to their lack of attention to the suspect’s movements until it was too late.

None of the officers assigned to protect Abe immediately caught sight of the suspect until he was already 20 feet behind him, where he pulled out his homemade double-barreled rifle, which resembled a long-lens camera, to fire his first shot. Abe barely missed. Up to that point, none of the officers were aware of the suspect’s presence, or recognized the blast as a gunshot, the report said.

In just over two seconds, the suspect was only 5.3 meters (yards) behind Abe to lethally fire the second shot.

The report called for a significant reinforcement of both the training and staffing of Japan’s dignitaries, as well as a revision of police protection guidelines for the first time in about 30 years. It said the prefectural police’s Abe protection plan lacked a thorough security review and largely copied a previous visit by another top legislator.

The National Police called for a doubling of the staff of dignitaries in Tokyo, a greater role for the National Police to oversee prefectural personnel and the use of digital technology and drones to strengthen surveillance from the ground. The police station also suggested bulletproof shields not yet used in Japan, a country known for strict gun control.

Abe’s family paid tribute to him in a private Buddhist ritual on Thursday, marking the 49th day since his murder. His younger brother and former Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, and other senior party officials and ministers were reportedly in attendance.

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About 1,000 people, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, attended an earlier private funeral at a Tokyo temple days after his death.

The Kishida government plans to hold a state funeral on Sept. 27, a plan that divided public opinion amid mounting criticism of ruling party members’ cozy ties to the controversial Korean church. Kishida’s cabinet is reportedly announcing a 250 million yen ($1.8 million) budget to invite 6,400 guests from inside and outside Japan to the upcoming funeral.

Founded in South Korea in 1954 and coming to Japan a decade later, the Unification Church has built close ties to a large number of conservative lawmakers, many of them members of Abe’s Liberal Democrat party because of their shared interests of anti-communism.

Since the 1980s, the church has faced allegations of problematic recruitment and religious sales in Japan, and the ruling party’s church ties have sent support for Kishida’s cabinet on a nosedive, even after the recent shuffle.

In Nara, the prefecture’s chief of police, Tomoaki Onizuka, also expressed his intention to resign on Thursday over Abe’s murder.

“I am almost crushed by the gravity of my responsibility” at the death of the former leader, Onizuka tearfully said. “We will grit our teeth and work to regain public confidence and be helpful to the people in the prefecture and throughout Japan.”

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