The suspect in a shooting and stabbing incident that left four people dead in central Japan is now in police custody, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing local police early Friday.
Police in Nakano City received a call on Thursday with reports that a “man stabbed a woman,” a city police official told CNN.
When officers rushed to the scene, the suspect fired something resembling a hunting rifle, striking four people, before barricading himself inside a building, the official added.
Among the casualties is a woman in her 40s, who was taken to hospital where she was subsequently pronounced dead. Two police officers have also died from their injuries, NHK reported. The officers were ages 46 and 61, according to police.
A fourth person died Friday, police said according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
Citing investigative sources, NHK said police in Nagano requested the Metropolitan Police Department to dispatch a “special investigation team” specializing in dealing with barricading incidents to the site.
An elderly woman was found unconscious outside of the house where the suspect had barricaded himself. She was later pronounced dead, local police said according to NHK.
A Nakano City police spokesman told CNN they had arrested Masanori Aoki, a 31-year-old farmer, on suspicion of killing a 61-year-old police officer by shooting him in the chest with what appears to be a hunting rifle.
Police are investigating the possible motive and how the weapon was obtained, the spokesman said.
Earlier Nakano City police told NHK that the suspect had barricaded himself in a home belonging to Nakano City Council Chairman Masamichi Aoki, who was thought to be the suspect’s father.
According to NHK, a witness to the attack said that he saw a woman run toward him, pleading for help, pursued by a masked man wearing camouflage
The man, who appeared to be in his 30s and wielded a knife several dozen centimeters long, stabbed her in the back, NHK reported.
Nakano City urged citizens to stay indoors in a statement posted onto social media, and the city police spokesman told CNN that authorities had designated an “evacuation zone” with a radius of 300 meters around the scene of the incident.
An evacuation center was later opened at the gymnasium of a middle school in Nakano City, according to a spokesman from Nakano City’s Crisis Management Division. Local officials are providing shelter, blankets, food, drinks, to around 60 people who have evacuated there.
Gun violence is extremely rare in Japan, a country of 125 million people. It has one of the lowest rates of gun crimes in the world due to its extremely strict gun control laws.
However, Japan was rocked by a shooting last year that reverberated around the world.
Shinzo Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, was shot dead during a campaign speech in Nara in July.
His murder sent shock waves through Japan and the international community, and also sparked questions about whether enough security was in place to protect him despite Japan’s track record for being a safe place.
Getting hold of a firearm in Japan is extremely difficult and the suspect in Abe’s shooting used a homemade weapon.
In 2022, nine incidents involving firearms took place in Japan including Abe’s assassination, one down from the previous year, according to the National Police Agency.
Of the nine incidents, six are believed to have been committed by gangs and other groups. In total, four people were killed and two injured in the nine incidents.