A police officer attacked by a knife-wielding man Sunday in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward shot and killed his assailant before dying of his wounds.
The man, identified by police as Yoshihiko Toyama, 54, died after being shot in the chest by 51-year-old officer Takashi Hirata, who died of stab wounds to his neck and chest.
Hirata, an assistant inspector at Setagaya Police Station’s community affairs division, was responding to a call about a man brandishing a knife at passersby in the Taishido area, about 300 meters north of Sangenjaya Station on the Tokyu Denentoshi Line, police said.
According to police, Hirata arrived at the scene and started chasing the man, who had begun to run away. Suddenly, the man turned around and stabbed Hirata in the chest and neck.
Before he was stabbed, Hirata fired a warning shot into the air. But because Toyama kept resisting, he fired four more shots, one of which hit Toyama in the chest.
“I went out of my house after hearing a bang and saw a policeman lying face up,” a 73-year-old woman who lives nearby said.
Another resident of the area said he heard shouts before the shooting and saw Hirata, who was hardly moving, and the officer in a pool of blood.
Both were later found on the ground by another officer and pronounced dead shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital.
The incident terrorized residents and shop owners of the area, which had been preparing to hold a samba carnival later in the evening.
As officers continued to examine the site, marked by a large bloodstain, the knife and Hirata’s gun, bicycle, and cap could be seen scattered on the ground.
According to investigators, witnesses said that Toyama, whose occupation and address were not immediately known, was acting strangely just before the incident and shouting “I’ll kill you!” into a mobile phone at a local coffee shop.
“(Toyama) was obviously weird,” said a 27-year-old employee at the coffee shop who said he knew the man.
At the coffee shop, Toyama kept banging the table with the blade of the knife, which had been wrapped in a leather sack, the employee said. “I did not know what to do.”
After barging out of the coffee shop holding the bag, they said, he began brandishing a 30- to 40-cm knife at passersby while muttering, “If that’s the way I have to do it, I’ll do it.” But then he suddenly burst into tears and squatted down, the witnesses said.
Earlier in the day, Toyama had also been seen walking around the shopping street muttering, “I will kill a policeman.”
Hirata had been transferred to Setagaya from Itabashi Police Station in February and was posted at a Sangenjaya police box. He had more than 30 years’ experience with the force and had earlier been honored by the National Police Agency for excellent job performance.
“It is extremely regrettable that a policeman who tried to fulfill his duties despite danger to his life should die,” said Metropolitan Police Department chief Takeshi Noda.
Hirata is the third police officer to be killed in the line of duty this year. In April, a police sergeant died from shotgun wounds at a taxi company in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture. In June, an assistant police inspector was stabbed to death at an apartment in Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture, after trying to intervene in a fight.
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