• Kyodo

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A former Self-Defense Forces member was sentenced to life in prison Friday for killing an officer in a police box in the city of Toyama, in central Japan, in 2018 before using the officer’s gun to shoot dead a security guard at a nearby school.

The Toyama District Court sentenced Keita Shimazu, 24, to life imprisonment, rather than imposing the death penalty as had been sought by prosecutors, ruling that Shimazu did not commit murder-robbery in the assault on the police officer.

“His intention to steal the handgun might have arisen after he killed the police officer,” Presiding Judge Taihei Omura said.

Omura also stated that a mental disorder played a role in forming the motive for the attack, describing it as a “factor that should be taken into consideration to some extent.”

“We cannot say we have no choice but to hand down a death sentence, as the crime was not premeditated,” the presiding judge said.

Prosecutors argued Shimazu had planned to take the gun from the start, and that his autistic spectrum disorder played a limited role.

But his defense team asked for life imprisonment, claiming Shimazu should have faced separate murder and theft charges, instead of murder-robbery, while urging the court to take into account that his disorder had not been properly treated.

Throughout the trial Shimazu remained silent, refusing to identify himself or submit a plea.

According to the ruling, Shimazu stabbed Kenichi Inaizumi, 46, at the Toyama police box and stole his handgun on June 26, 2018, before fatally shooting Shinichi Nakamura, a 68-year-old security guard, near the main gate of a nearby elementary school. He also shot at another security guard.

Shimazu served as a member of the Ground Self-Defense Force for two years through March 2017. On the day of the attack, he beat the manager of a restaurant where he had been working part time and quit the job.

Following the ruling, Nakamura’s daughter told reporters the court’s decision was “regrettable” as she had wanted Shimazu to receive the death penalty.

His defense counsel welcomed the ruling, saying it “correctly evaluated evidence and appropriately determined facts,” while prosecutors said they will discuss whether to appeal the decision.

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