The 2½ seconds of security breaches that sealed Shinzo Abe’s fate
Bodyguards could have saved Shinzo Abe’s life if they had shielded him or removed him from the line of fire within 2½ seconds between a first missed shot and a second shot that fatally injured him, according to eight security experts who have reviewed footage of the ancient Japanese. the assassination of the leader.
The failure to protect Abe from the second shot follows a series of security lapses that preceded the assassination of Japan’s longest-serving prime minister on July 8, Japanese and international experts said.
The killing of Abe in the western Japanese city of Nara by a man using a homemade weapon has shocked a nation where gun violence is rare and politicians campaign close to the public with light security.
Japanese authorities – including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – have acknowledged security flaws and police have said they are investigating.
In addition to security experts, Reuters spoke to six witnesses at the scene and reviewed several videos available online, taken from different angles, to piece together a detailed account of security arrangements prior to Abe’s shooting.
After leaving Abe, 67, exposed from behind as he spoke on a traffic island on a public road, his security department allowed the shooter – identified by police as Tetsuya Yamagami, 41 – to come unchecked a few yards from Abe. Yamagami was carrying a weapon, the footage showed.
« They should have seen the attacker walk very deliberately towards the back of the prime minister and intervene, » said Kenneth Bombace, head of Global Threat Solutions, who provided security for Joe Biden when he was a presidential candidate.
Yamagami came within seven yards of Abe before firing his first shot, which missed, the Yomiuri newspaper said, citing investigative sources. The second shot, which hit Abe, was fired about five meters away, he added.
No « safety circles »
Abe’s bodyguards did not appear to have « concentric circles of security » around him, or any type of crowd surveillance, said John Soltys, a former US Navy SEAL and CIA officer now vice president. from the security company Prosegur.
Asked about the expert analysis, Nara Prefectural Police, tasked with security for Abe’s campaign stoppage, told Reuters in a statement that the department was « committed to thoroughly identifying security issues with Abe’s protection, declining to comment further.
Video footage showed that after the first hit, Abe turns around and looks over his left shoulder. Two bodyguards scramble to come between him and the shooter, one hoisting a thin black bag. Two more head towards the shooter, who closes in through the smoke.
Although Abe’s security accosted the assailant moments later and arrested him, it was the « wrong response » for some security to pursue the shooter instead of moving to protect Abe, said said Mitsuru Fukuda, a professor at Nihon University who specializes in crisis management and terrorism. .
There was enough security, « but no sense of danger, » said Yasuhiro Sasaki, a retired police officer from Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo.
« Everyone was surprised and no one went where Abe was, » he said.
The National Police Agency, which oversees local police forces, said Abe’s murder was the result of police failings. In response, the agency said it has set up a team to review security and protection measures and consider concrete steps to prevent such a serious incident from happening again.
« We recognize that there have been problems, » the agency said in response to questions from Reuters. « Not only in the on-site response, such as setting up security and protection, deployment of personnel and fundamental security procedures, but also in the way the National Police Agency has been involved. »
Reuters could not reach Yamagami, who remains in police custody, for comment and could not determine if he had a lawyer.
“Could have been avoided”
The footage shows four bodyguards inside the guardrails as Abe spoke, according to Koichi Ito, a former sergeant with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s special assault team, who is now a consultant in security. The number of bodyguards was corroborated by local politician Masahiro Okuni, who was at the scene.
When the former prime minister rose to speak, Yamagami could be seen in video footage applauding in the background.
As Yamagami moved forward behind Abe, security didn’t seem to be involved, as the footage shows.
Abe should have had a dedicated close protection bodyguard to keep him away, said a member of the US Diplomatic Security Service, which protects high-ranking diplomats and foreign dignitaries.
“We grabbed him by the belt and the collar, protected him with our body and walked away,” the agent said.
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Ito, the former police sergeant, said security could have stopped the first shot had they been vigilant and communicated.
« Even if they missed that, there was a window of more than two seconds before the second hit, so they definitely could have prevented that, » he said. « If Abe had been properly protected, this could have been avoided. »