Hostage dead after 11-hour standoff near Tokyo

Kyodo News

Posted at Jan 28 2022 04:27 PM

A 66-year-old man attacked three medical workers making a visit to his home near Tokyo on Thursday night, shooting at least one of them with what appeared to be a hunting gun and taking another of them hostage, police said, adding that the hostage was later confirmed dead.

The 11-hour standoff came to an end early Friday after the police stormed the house in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture, and arrested the man, who was identified as Hiroshi Watanabe.

The dead hostage was 44-year-old doctor Junichi Suzuki, the police said. The shot medical worker, a 41-year-old physiotherapist, remains unconscious.

The three visited the house around 9 p.m. Thursday, apparently to express condolences over the recent death of the suspect's mother. They were in charge of home medical care for the mother, investigative sources said.

The third medical worker was also taken to hospital after being injured with tear gas spray, the police said.

A resident in the neighborhood called police after hearing loud bangs at about the same time. Local emergency workers also received a report from a person who said two people had been shot.

The police talked with Watanabe by phone during the standoff. The suspect did not make any specific demands, they said, quoting him as saying the hostage is "okay," and that "I want to help him. Please rescue him."

The police did not talk directly with the hostage and were unable to confirm his condition.

According to neighbors, Watanabe was living with his bed-ridden mother and had little contact with them.

"I got the impression that he was really devoted to caring for his mother," said a 74-year-old woman.

Watanabe moved to the area with his mother several years ago, a 91-year-old man said. He recalled the man saying he could not join in residential activities because he had to take care of his mother.

With the standoff continuing into Friday morning, local authorities had evacuated some 110 local residents, and nearby elementary and junior high schools will be closed for the day.

A 19-year-old university student living nearby heard a loud bang while at home on Thursday night. After being informed of the incident by a police officer, he hurried to a nearby elementary school designated as an evacuation site and then headed to another site further away at a junior high school. "I was scared. I wanted to leave the area quickly."

A 54-year-old man witnessed police cars lined up on a road. "I thought it was a fire, but I was surprised to hear that people were evacuating. It's usually a quiet area," he said.