Japan national police chief resigns over Abe assassination

In order to accept responsibility for the fatal shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a campaign address last month, Japan’s national police head has announced his resignation.

Itaru Nakamura, the head of the National Police Agency, made the statement on August 25 as his organization published a study criticizing shortcomings in police protection from preparation to security at the scene of Abe’s murder on July 8 in Nara, western Japan.

Nakamura stated that he takes the passing of the former prime minister seriously and that he had earlier Thursday tendered his resignation to the National Public Safety Commission.

“In order to fundamentally reexamine guarding and never to let this happen, we need to have a new system,” Nakamura told a news conference as 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 under mental evaluation until late November. Yamagami told police that he targeted Abe because of the former leader’s link to the Unification Church, which he hated.

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

In a 54-page investigative report released on Thursday, the National Police Agency concluded that the protection plan for Abe neglected potential danger coming from behind him and merely focused on risks during his movement from the site of his speech to his vehicle.

None of the officers assigned to immediate protection of Abe caught the suspect until he was already 7 meters (yards) behind him where he took out his homemade double-barrel gun, which resembled a camera with a long lens, to blast his first shot that narrowly missed Abe. Up to that moment, none of the officers was aware of the suspect’s presence, the report said.

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

The report said the prefectural police’s Abe protection plan lacked a thorough safety evaluation. It called for significant strengthening in both training and staffing of Japan’s dignitary protection, as well as revising police protection guidelines for the first time in about 30 years.

The national police called for doubling dignitary protection staff, greater supervisory role for the national police over prefectural staff, and the use of digital technology and drones to bolster surveillance from above ground.

Abe’s family paid tribute to him in a private Buddhist ritual Thursday marking the 49th day since his assassination.

In Nara, prefectural police chief Tomoaki Onizuka also expressed his intention to step down over Abe’s assassination.

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