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Policeman guarding Japan ex-PM Abe distracted by bicycles and missed suspect: source

Investigators search for bullets and other evidence at the scene of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assassination in the city of Nara on July 13, 2022. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

TOKYO -- A police officer charged with protecting the area behind former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the day he was assassinated has told investigators he did not notice the suspected murderer because he was distracted by bicycles on the road, a source close to the inquiry told the Mainichi Shimbun.

    Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, has been sent to prosecutors on suspicion of killing Abe on July 8 in the city of Nara. The National Police Agency (NPA) has established a "verification and review team" to investigate security problems and other issues surrounding the shooting of the former prime minister while he was giving an election speech.

    According to investigators, the 67-year-old Abe was giving his speech in a spot surrounded by guardrails in front of Kintetsu Railway's Yamato-Saidaiji Station. Four officers, including security police dispatched from the Metropolitan Police Department, were inside the guardrail, one of whom was guarding the rear.

    When the suspect approached Abe, this officer was reportedly watching bicycles and other vehicles passing by on the road and did not notice the armed suspect until the first shot was fired.

    In addition to the security detachment, dozens of Nara Prefectural Police officers were on hand to provide security, but most of them were watching the area in front of Abe, where most of the audience was gathered.

    Some officers have commented that the speech location was not good in the first place, as cars and bicycles were constantly coming and going behind Abe during his speech.

    The NPA's verification team will interview the security detachment and other officers who oversaw security at the site, and is scheduled to compile a countermeasure plan and other details by the end of August.

    (Japanese original by Naritake Machida and Buntaro Saito, Tokyo City News Department)

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