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A "10-second blind spot," during which nobody at the scene of Shinzo Abe's assassination noticed suspect Tetsuya Yamagami as he approached the former prime minister from behind during a July 8 election campaign speech, would seal the ex-PM's fate. That is what emerges from a Mainichi Shimbun recreation of the shooting scene in the city of Nara, constructed from the National Police Agency (NPA)'s inquiry report, witnesses' smartphone footage, and other sources.* Warning: This page contains graphic content.
At 11:28 a.m. on July 8, Abe grabbed a microphone to deliver a campaign speech at the north exit of Kintetsu Railway's Yamato-Saidaiji Station. He was on an intersection traffic island surrounded by guardrails on all sides, and visible from 360 degrees. Stationed within the guardrails was a plainclothes member of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)'s Security Police division, and three Nara Prefectural Police officers. There were about 300 people around Abe, mainly in the area in front of him.
Yamagami was surveying the area from a sidewalk about 15 meters from Abe. The Nara Prefectural Police headquarters' security section chief in charge of on-site command that day was nearby, but his attention was focused on the area to Abe's front.
Yamagami begins to move slowly from his position. He stopped after walking some meters away from Abe along a sidewalk at the edge of a bus roundabout. An image posted on Twitter showed him staring at Abe with his arms crossed from about 20 meters away. There were no traffic restrictions in place on the prefectural road between the suspect and the spot where Abe was delivering his speech.
A few seconds before 11:31, the suspect passed between the sidewalk fences and advanced onto the bus roundabout. However, the police officers guarding Abe's rear were watching the movements of a bicycle and a man pushing a cart, and they did not notice Yamagami approaching. Thus, a "blind spot" was created.
While moving toward the speech platform, the suspect looks into a shoulder pack, puts his right hand inside it and quickens his pace. Once he crosses the roundabout and walks onto the prefectural road, he pulls out a handmade gun. The distance between him and Abe had closed to around 9.3 meters.
Yamagami moves forward while aiming the gun at Abe. After going past the middle of the road, and just 10 seconds after entering the roundabout, he fired the first shot from a distance of about 7 meters.
A police officer guarding Abe's front said he thought the gunshot was the sound of a tire bursting. However, one police officer stationed behind Abe noticed Yamagami, who was drawing nearer to Abe holding what looked to the officer like a gun, and put his hand on the guardrail to climb over it.
The first shot did not hit Abe and the bullet punctured a sign on the campaign vehicle parked about 20 meters away. Traces of the shot were found on a wall of a multistory parking garage about 90 meters from where the weapon was fired.
Yamagami kept on moving after the first shot, and aimed the gun at Abe again while positioning the weapon with both hands. About 2.7 seconds later, the suspect pulled the trigger for the second shot from a distance of about 5.3 meters. This was the moment that the police officer who had noticed the suspect climbed over the guardrail.
The MPD Security Police officer tried to get between Abe and the suspect while raising a bulletproof bag, but did not make it in time. Abe, who was shot in the instant he turned around after stopping his speech, appeared to step down from the platform, his body limp, and collapsed
According to the NPA report, if measures had been taken soon after Yamagami entered the roundabout from the sidewalk, the officers could have spotted the danger at the latest by the point the suspect was about to take out his gun. According to analysis, there would have been a "great possibility that the incident could have been prevented" in such a scenario. The report raised the "rear security lapse" as the main reason Abe's killing could not be prevented.
During the Nara Prefectural Police's security planning process, the need for a vigilant rearguard was not specified. The NPA report concluded that carelessly following previous examples without sufficient consideration of possible dangers led to a flawed security plan.
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