NAGOYA -- A driver heading east on the Tomei Expressway in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on Sept. 8 became one of the country's latest road-rage victims after a motorist traveling behind him took out his anger by firing a weapon appearing to be an air gun at the victim.
Additionally, the suspect reportedly drove dangerously close to the victim and repeatedly blasted the horn. Investigations by prefectural police have revealed the car the suspect was driving had been stolen.
The suspect is said to have driven the station wagon car to neighboring Gifu Prefecture, where he abandoned it on the road and made his escape. Aichi Prefectural Police are searching for the suspect on suspicion of damage to property and violating the Road Traffic Act.
According to prefectural police, the incident took place from around 7 a.m. on Sept. 8, in a passing lane between the Nissin Junction and the Tomei-Miyoshi Interchange of the Tomei Expressway, both in Aichi Prefecture. The victim, a company employee aged 23, became aware of a car driving behind him upon entering the lane.
After the tailgating driver had engaged in repeated aggressive behavior for around five minutes, he reportedly then produced what appeared to be an air gun from the driver's window and fired at the victim's car. Marks on the vehicle consistent with those left by an air gun have been confirmed.
An individual connected to the investigation said the suspect drove the stolen car for another hour and a half, until he ran out of gas on the Chuo Expressway in Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture, and stopped on the shoulder.
A police officer for Gifu Prefectural Police who was on patrol then spotted a man and woman stopped on the side of the road. When the officer went to ask the driver why they were there, the man ran, leaving the woman behind.
An air gun was found inside the car when Aichi Prefectural Police subsequently inspected it. Police are interviewing the woman about the details of what took place.
A man, 23, who works at the same Nagoya-based company as the driver who was targeted, was in the car when the attack took place. He told the Mainichi Shimbun, "When we realized he was shooting at us with an air gun, we got really scared and panicked."
The pair was commuting to work at the time the incident took place. When their car entered the passing lane, the driver in the black vehicle behind them began to engage in violent behavior consistent with road rage, including hitting the horn, flashing his headlights and driving dangerously close to them.
It was then that he reportedly started using an air gun, too. The passenger said, "At first we thought it was stones kicked up by other cars. But when I looked back, I was shocked to see the driver behind us was pointing something like an air gun at us."
The suspect then drove to overtake the victims while shouting something at them and firing off another shot. There are reportedly four marks on the victim's car that appear to have been left by an air gun.
(Japanese original by Hitomi Takai, Nagoya News Center, and Ryo Numata, Gifu Bureau)