(NARA, Japan) — Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed during a campaign speech in western Japan on Friday, hospital officials said.
Abe, 67, was just minutes into his speech on a street in Nara when he was shot from behind. He was airlifted to Nara Medical University Hospital for emergency treatment, but his heart had already stopped and he had no vital signs. He was later pronounced dead, hospital officials said at a press conference Friday.
Abe sustained two gunshot wounds to the right side of his neck. Doctors tried to stop the bleeding but the bullet had traveled to Abe’s heart and they could not resuscitate him. Abe’s wife was by his side at the hospital when he died, according to hospital officials.
Nara prefectural police arrested the alleged gunman — identified as 41-year-old Tetsuya Yamagami — and recovered a weapon — described as a handmade shotgun — at the scene of the attack on Friday, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, a partner of ABC News.
Citing Japanese defense sources, NHK reported that Yamagami served in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force for three years in the 2000s.
The attack and a motive remains under investigation, but police said the suspect told investigators that he was dissatisfied with the former prime minister and intended to kill him, according to NHK.
Abe was in Nara stumping for his party’s candidates in the upcoming elections for the upper house of Japan’s bicameral legislature when he was gunned down. Despite no longer being Japan’s prime minister, Abe wheeled great influence on national security and economic policies and is the longest-serving premier in the country’s history.
U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement Friday, saying he was “stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot and killed while campaigning.”
“This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him,” Biden said. “I had the privilege to work closely with Prime Minister Abe. As Vice President, I visited him in Tokyo and welcomed him to Washington. 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,” Biden added. “Even at the moment he was attacked, he was engaged in the work of democracy. While there are many details that we do not yet know, we know that violent attacks are never acceptable and that gun violence always leaves a deep scar on the communities that are affected by it. The United States stands with Japan in this moment of grief. I send my deepest condolences to his family.”
The deadly shooting shocked many in Japan, which is one of the world’s safest countries and has some of the strictest gun control laws.
In an emotional speech from Tokyo on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he was “lost for words” upon learning of Abe’s death. He said Abe had led the country “with great leadership” was his “personal friend,” someone he has “spent a lot of time with.”
“I have great respect for the legacy Shinzo Abe left behind and I pay the deepest condolences to him,” Kishida said.
The prime minister called Abe’s killing a “heinous act.”
“It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated,” he added. “We will do everything we can, and I would like to use the most extreme words available to condemn this act.”
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