On Wednesday, Saitama Prefectural Police delved into the motivations behind the actions of Tsuneo Suzuki, an 86-year-old man detained on suspicions of shooting at a hospital and subsequently taking hostages in a post office in Toda, Saitama Prefecture.
The incident, which unfolded on Tuesday, October 31, began with Suzuki allegedly firing two shots at a local hospital, wounding a doctor and a patient. Suzuki then reportedly absconded to a post office in Warabi, 1.5 kilometers from the hospital, where he held two female staff members hostage.
Suzuki’s siege ended late Tuesday when police stormed the post office around 10:20 p.m., leading to his arrest and the recovery of a firearm. By the time of the raid, one of the hostages, a woman in her 20s, had been released, and the other, in her 30s, had managed to escape unharmed.
Armed with ammunition, kitchen knives, a gun, and flammable materials, Suzuki had barricaded himself, demanding to speak with the post office manager and the officer who handled his previous traffic accident. According to police, Suzuki held grievances against the post office linked to his treatment following an incident involving a post office employee.
Furthermore, Suzuki allegedly set fire to his own residence, a two-story wooden apartment complex, before the hospital and post office incidents. Police confirmed that Suzuki has confessed to the arson.
Neighborhood descriptions of Suzuki paint a picture of a man with a history of erratic behavior, including both friendly greetings and threatening outbursts towards residents.
In response to the day’s events, the Metropolitan Police Department deployed its Special Investigation Team (SIT), specialized in resolving hostage situations and kidnappings.
This occurrence has sparked attention in Japan, a nation celebrated for its low crime rates and strict gun control laws. Firearms are largely prohibited for the general public, with the exception of hunting licenses. Despite such regulations, Japan records between 10 and 50 shooting incidents annually, frequently associated with organized crime.
The latest available data from the police agency in 2021 notes that there are 177,719 licensed firearms in the country, predominantly for hunting. This latest breach of public safety underscores the rarity of gun-related violence in Japan but also serves as a reminder of the potential for such incidents to occur.