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Guns possessed by yakuza gangsters pose a threat to society. But what happened early last week in Tokyo is serious as well. A “koban” (police box) duty officer of the Metropolitan Police Department assigned to the Tachikawa Police Station used a gun issued to him to shoot a woman to death in her apartment in Kokubunji, Tokyo. He then shot himself to death. By failing to keep strict watch on the behavior of the officer, the police department became partially responsible for this crime.

The 40-year-old policeman, while in uniform, entered the residence of the 32-year-old woman, a snack bar worker, by using a duplicate key on the night of Aug. 20. The woman was shot twice in the chest and once in the abdomen before the police officer shot himself in the chest.

Investigators found that the woman had sent e-mail messages from her mobile phone to the policeman threatening to file a criminal complaint against him for allegedly entering her apartment without permission. Later it was found that the policeman had repeatedly stalked the woman.

It often happened that the policeman went out of contact with colleagues while on duty. On the day of the crime, the Tachikawa Police Station started to look for the policeman more than 8 1/2 hours after he disappeared from the police box. This indicates slackness on the part of authorities at the police station. The policeman was not accounted for after leaving the police box around 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. A duty officer at the police station was notified about his disappearance around 5:30 a.m. the next day. It was not until the report went to a high-ranking official around 6:10 a.m. that the search for the policeman started.

If a police officer disappears and is out of reach for many hours, police officials should not rule out the possibility that he or she has had his or her gun stolen and that the gun could be used in a crime. What happened Aug. 20 was even worse than this. The policeman himself committed a crime with his gun. Police must fully grasp the habitual behavior and the mental state of its officers to prevent the occurrence of such gun crimes.

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