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Fukuoka air gun shooting suspects refused to let son undergo health checks

Masanori Jokei, center, is escorted to a prosecutors' office by car in Tagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Nov. 8, 2019. (Mainichi/Toyokazu Tsumura)

TAGAWA, Fukuoka -- A couple under arrest on suspicion of shooting their 1-year-old son with an air gun refused to let the victim undergo health checkups for infants administered by the local government, those linked to the investigation said.

Moreover, the mother of the victim rejected recommendations by the city that she enroll her children in a local day care center.

Fukuoka Prefectural Police are investigating a link between the couple's childrearing and the incident.

Masanori Jokei, a civil engineering business operator and his wife Ai, both aged 24, are under arrest on suspicion of injuring their third son Yuiga by shooting him with an air gun in late November 2018.

Yuiga fell into critical condition on Dec. 1 last year and was admitted to a hospital where he was confirmed to have died of pneumonia. At the time, dozens of bruises, believed to have been made after being shot with an air gun, were found all over his body.

According to the investigative sources and city officials, Yuiga, who was born in July 2017, did not undergo health checkups, which the city conducts on 4-month-old and 8-month-old infants.

The Tagawa Municipal Government encouraged the couple to have Yuiga undergo such checkups by sending notices to them and visiting their home.

The municipal government and a local child consultation center run by the prefectural government also recommended that the couple enroll Yuiga's elder brother in a day care center when Ai notified the city that she was pregnant with Yuiga in January 2017. However, she refused to do so.

In March 2018, after Ai gave birth to Yuiga, the authorities once again advised her to enroll Yuiga and his brother in a day care facility as it was revealed that she was pregnant with a daughter, but she refused to comply again

A senior official of the child consultation center expressed regret over the couple's refusal. "If the victim had gone to a day care center, we might have been able to properly watch over him," the official said.

The prefectural police referred the couple to a prosecutors' office on Nov. 8.

(Japanese original by Makoto Kakizaki, Ken Nakazato and Yoshihito Asano, Kyushu News Department)

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