Japanese police on Tuesday arrested a man who barricaded himself in a post office and held hostages at gunpoint for several hours after fatally shooting two people at a nearby hospital.
Police first responded around 1 p.m. local time following a shooting at Toda Chou General Hospital in the town of Warabi, Saitama Prefecture, which left two men – a doctor in his 40s and a patient in his 60s – with non-life-threatening injuries. .
The suspect, identified as 86-year-old Tsuneo Suzuki, then fled on a motorcycle to the post office, located about 2.4 kilometers away, the Japan Times reported. He took at least one person hostage at gunpoint as he got into a standoff with police.
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A young woman walked out of the post office at one point, apparently escorted by police, but it remains unclear why she was let go, according to the BBC.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police dispatched a unit specializing in handling hostage situations to speak with Suzuki and dissuade him. The standoff lasted for hours and police finally entered the building around 10:20 p.m.
Police urged neighborhood residents to shelter in place for the duration of the standoff, and local schools kept students on lockdown until around 4 p.m., at which point authorities initiated mass evacuations to evacuate them to a safe place.
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Following the victim’s arrest, authorities said they discovered a fire in an apartment believed to belong to Suzuki. They are investigating a possible link between the shooting and the fire.
Japan’s record on gun safety remains one of the strongest in the world: only people aged 20 or older can own a firearm, but they must go through a lengthy vetting process with a local public security committee, which also governs the prefectural police, according to the Japan Times.
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Applicants must pass a writing test and demonstrate proficiency in a shooting test before even applying to the selection process, all of which can cost $400.
The screening includes a review of the applicant’s criminal record, personal relationships and potential ties to organized crime, in addition to a psychiatric evaluation and drug testing.
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Despite extremely strict gun laws, the Japan Times says about 10 to 50 shootings have occurred each year over the past decade, but most of these incidents are believed to be linked to individuals “linked to organized crime “.
The motive for Tuesday’s shooting remains unknown, but an investigation is underway.