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Use of US-made handgun in 15-year-old Tokyo boy's suicide baffles police

Metropolitan Police Department investigators examine the location near a house where a male high school student was found collapsed due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, on June 8, 2020. (Mainichi/Takuya Suzuki)

TOKYO -- Police have discovered that a U.S.-made handgun was used in the suicide of a 15-year-old high school student in Tokyo.

A gunshot was heard in a quiet neighborhood in the suburban Tokyo city of Hachioji at around 8 a.m. on June 8. The teen's mother found him collapsed in his room immediately afterward, with blood flowing from his head. A revolver manufactured by U.S. firearms company Smith & Wesson had fallen nearby, and a holder that is believed to have contained the handgun was on the student's desk. The teen was confirmed dead after being sent to a hospital.

Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers have been investigating why such a weapon was in the student's possession. It was revealed that the boy had other equipment besides the pistol in a house search by the MPD. A cabinet in his room contained 65 bullets, while one magazine that feeds ammunition to automatic firearms, two leather holders, as well as oil and a brush for polishing the gun were found in a closet in a separate room. An investigator could not hide their feelings of astonishment and commented, "Why is there such a large amount of these items?"

The pistol is said to be a rare model scarcely distributed in Japan. The teen's mother who lives with him said in response to questioning by the MPD, "I didn't know he had a handgun." None of the teen's immediate family or relatives have confirmed links to organized crime group members.

The possibility of the teen obtaining the gun via the internet was raised as a potential route of acquisition. Seigen Takano, president of cybersecurity firm Sprout Inc. based in Tokyo's Chuo Ward and author of publications regarding cyberspace, commented, "Transactions of firearms, drugs, and the like happen on the dark web, which is accessed using designated software."

According to Takano, information reached by using major search engines like Google or Yahoo only accounts for a small percentage of data on the internet. The remaining 90% of data lies in information that cannot be shown unless an ID and password is entered, and the dark web, parts of the internet that are only accessible using Tor, or special software that allows users to remain anonymous. There are 20 to 30 major overseas websites that handle firearms and illegal drugs. It is believed that cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin and Monero, which enable anonymous transactions, are used on these sites.

The MPD has continued to trace six pieces of telecommunications equipment found at the house, including the student's smartphone and tablet computer. However, Takano also pointed out, "It's difficult for a minor to hold a cryptocurrency account, and it's also difficult to imagine a parcel containing a handgun being able to pass through customs in Japan."

One high-ranking official of the MPD spoke of advancing investigations while considering all kinds of possibilities, and investigators have filed an inquiry with the manufacturer, telling them the serial number of the handgun, among other probes.

(Japanese original by Makoto Kakizaki, City News Department)

-- List of suicide prevention hotlines

TELL Lifeline (English) https://telljp.com/lifeline/

Telephone hotline: 03-5774-0992 (9 a.m.-11 p.m. daily)

Online chat: https://telljp.com/lifeline/tell-chat/ (Fri.-Sun., 10:30 p.m.-2 a.m.)

Counseling inquiries: 03-4550-1146 (Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.)

*

Federation of Inochi no Denwa (literally "telephone of life") can be reached by phone at 0570-783-556 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Federation Inochi no Denwa also accepts free phone consultations on the 10th of every month from 8 a.m. until 8 a.m. of the following day at 0120-783-556

The Federation's website is here: http://www.inochinodenwa.org/

A list of hotlines by region affiliated with the center can be found here: http://www.inochinodenwa.org/lifeline.php

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The Tokyo suicide prevention center, a member of the nonprofit organization Befrienders Worldwide, can be reached every day from 8 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. (from 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursdays) at 03-5286-9090, or at http://www.befrienders-jpn.org/

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