June 23rd, 2024

Police in Japan capture gunman after 8-hour hostage drama at post office

By Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press on October 31, 2023.

TOKYO (AP) – Police in Japan ended an eight-hour standoff with a gunman at a post office Tuesday by capturing the suspect after two hostages were freed safely – an attack authorities said could be related to an earlier shooting at a hospital.

The man had entered the post office with a gun in Warabi, north of Tokyo, about an hour after the hospital shooting in which two people were wounded in the nearby city of Toda.

Footage on NHK television showed an elderly man sitting between two police officers in the backseat of a police car that drove past reporters and headed to a local police station.

Police said they captured the gunman when they stormed into the building, which took place about an hour after the second of the two postal staff who had remained in the building safely fled. The other hostage had safely walked out nearly two hours earlier, according to NHK reports.

Police said they were investigating the hospital and post office attacks together because of a possibility they are related. They are also looking into a fire that broke out at a building, which is reportedly the suspect’s apartment, near the hospital around the time of the shooting.

NHK said the suspect is a 86-year-old resident of Toda, but police declined to release his identity prior to official announcement.

Hundreds of police had surrounded the building housing the post office. Television footage showed officers wearing helmets and bulletproof vests squatting behind the doors of a patrol vehicle parked outside. The video also showed the suspect – an older-looking man wearing a cap and holding a gun – when he showed up briefly at the entrance.

Earlier Tuesday, Saitama Prefectural Police said two men – a doctor in his 40s and a patient in his 60s – were wounded after blasts resembling gunfire were heard outside a general hospital in the city of Toda, just north of Tokyo.

The victims were both conscious and their wounds are not life-threatening, police said. Kyodo News agency said the two were believed to be inside a consultation room on the first floor when they were attacked, and that cracks were found in the window.

Police said the attacker apparently fired his gun from the street and then fled on a motorcycle.

In a third incident being investigated by police, a fire that broke out at an apartment building near the hospital in Toda around the time of the shooting.

Most of the post office staff were able to leave at the beginning of the standoff, but two remained inside. One was seen to leave after about five hours, and the second left two hours later.

Police had urged residents near the post office to take shelter at a facility set up by the authorities. About 300 children from a nearby school who usually walk home were taken home by bus as a precaution, local media reported.

Japan has strict gun control laws, but in recent years, there has been a growing concern about handmade weapons, such as the one allegedly used in the July 2022 assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

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