OSAKA – Police on Monday arrested a man suspected of stabbing a police officer multiple times in Osaka Prefecture the previous day and stealing his pistol, an incident that came just days before the prefecture hosts the Group of 20 summit set to be attended by several world leaders.
Yujiro Iimori, 33, is alleged to have stabbed the officer, Suzunosuke Kose, 26, with a knife multiple times at a police box in the city of Suita, before fleeing the scene at around 5:40 a.m. on Sunday. He was carrying the gun when he was detained in the nearby city of Minoo, police said. Kose remains in critical condition.
Iimori denied the charges, saying, “It is not something I have done,” according to police. “It is because my disease got worse and because the people around me became bitter.”
He was carrying a mental disability certificate, investigators said.
The violent incident comes as police step up security in the nearby city of Osaka, which will host next week’s Group of 20 summit. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday that he takes the incident seriously.
“We will boost security as we are expecting the G20 summit next week,” he said, adding that the incident has left residents greatly concerned.
While Osaka police officials are relieved that the suspect has been arrested, they remain troubled that a police officer had his weapon stolen ahead of the G20 summit, adding that identifying measures to stop similar incidents is an urgent task.
Police departments across the country have been introducing new holsters designed to prevent officers from being disarmed. Since Kose was using an older-style holster, Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said he will ask the central government to allocate budget to replace such holsters with the new style as soon as possible.
Iimori was put on a nationwide wanted list early Monday.
The gun was loaded with five bullets when it was stolen, but only four were found in it when Iimori was arrested, police said.
No injuries or damage has been reported since the gun was stolen but several people living near the police box where the incident occurred said they heard a sound like gunfire about 20 minutes after the attack. Police are investigating whether it was the sound of the gun being fired.
Iimori was apprehended in a mountain forest in Minoo, north of Suita, at around 6:35 a.m. Monday, after images of a person resembling him were recorded on security cameras.
When found by police, Iimori was lying on a wooden bench with a backpack under his head. The pistol was inside a plastic bag under the bench, according to police.
Authorities had been contacted by Iimori’s father, who said the suspect shown in surveillance camera footage, released by police, appeared to be his son, investigative sources said. The father said his son had been living in Tokyo until shortly before the stabbing.
A man resembling the person in the footage had stayed at a hotel in Suita on Friday, the sources added.
Kose was apparently attacked after two fellow officers left the police box to respond to an emergency call reporting a break-in at a home. Police had received a call at around 5:30 a.m. from a man at a public pay phone at Kandaimae Station, claiming that his apartment had been ransacked by a burglar.
Images from multiple security cameras taken immediately after the call showed a man running toward the police box.
The two senior police officers rushed to the apartment on motorcycles, ahead of Kose. As Kose was preparing to follow the two at around 5:40 a.m., he was stabbed seven times with a 15-centimeter cooking knife. One of the stab wounds was to the left side of his chest.
He is believed to have been attacked just as he climbed onto his motorcycle, not having had time to draw his gun to defend himself. The motorcycle was found overturned close to where Kose was found bleeding near the police box. The reported break-in later proved to be a false report.
One of Kose’s stab wounds showed that the knife blade, which passed through a gap in his bulletproof vest, penetrated his lung and reached his heart, according to investigative sources. The suspect bought a jacket and a pair of trousers at an Aeon supermarket some 5 kilometers from the police box shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, just after it had opened for the day.
An employee at the supermarket made an emergency call to police after noticing that the customer’s hand was bloodstained.
The stabbing shocked locals, forcing supermarkets and libraries to close and public events, including flea markets, to be canceled.
Police had called on residents to lock their doors and refrain from venturing outside.
Iimori, a resident of Shinagawa Ward in Tokyo, had been working part-time as a cleaner at a golf practice range in adjacent Ota Ward since November, according to his co-workers. His father works as an executive at Kansai Television Co.
On June 10, he applied for leave, complaining of a mental health problem. Iimori initially planned to take three days off, but later told his boss that it would be difficult for him to go back to work before the end of June.
On Saturday afternoon, Iimori telephoned his boss and said that he would likely be able to start working again around June 25.
According to former classmates and a Facebook account believed to be his, Iimori graduated from Komazawa University in Tokyo after studying at elementary, junior high and high schools in Suita.
Between April and September 2009 Iimori had worked as a seaman apprentice in the Maritime Self-Defense Force. During that time he worked aboard a destroyer but never handled pistols while on duty, according to a Defense Ministry source.
In a statement, Takahisa Ishida, head of the Osaka Prefectural Police Department, said, “We apologize for the great worry we have caused local residents and appreciate the information that has been offered to investigators.”
Some locals expressed relief following the arrest of the suspect.