Doctor killed in Saitama standoff was likely shot and killed instantly

A doctor who was allegedly held hostage in a home in Saitama Prefecture on Thursday was likely killed instantly by a bullet to the chest, police sources said on Saturday.

A man who was arrested after a deadly 11-hour hostage situation that ended Friday in Fujimino had told officers during the confrontation that the hostage was fine, but police now suspect he was lying.

Saitama Prefectural Police sent the man, Hiroshi Watanabe, 66, to prosecutors on Saturday after upgrading the charge against him from attempted murder to murder.

He suggested he intended to kill himself and kill his mother’s doctor, whom he blamed for her death, the sources said.

During the incident, 44-year-old doctor Junichi Suzuki was shot in the chest and later confirmed dead, while a 41-year-old physiotherapist at Suzuki’s clinic was seriously injured.

Watanabe’s 92-year-old mother had used the clinic’s home care service until her death on Wednesday. On Thursday evening, the doctor and six other clinic staff members went to the suspect’s home in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture, at his request.

Watanabe requested that medical workers visit him to offer his condolences to his mother. But when they arrived, he asked them to give her a heart massage when she had been dead for more than a day, sources in charge of the investigation said on Sunday. After Suzuki carefully explained why he wouldn’t give her CPR, Watanabe pulled out a shotgun and fired at least three times, the sources said.

According to the sources, Watanabe told investigators that he was contemplating suicide, along with the doctor and other staff. Watanabe was quoted by investigative sources as saying he was angry at the quality of care given to his mother by the medical team.

Sources from a local medical association said Watanabe called the association about 15 times, complaining about Suzuki’s medical treatment policies for his mother. He also filed complaints at several other medical facilities where his mother had been treated.

Watanabe fired the shotgun inside his home around 9 p.m. Thursday and took the doctor hostage. He was arrested after police stormed the house on Friday morning.

The doctor was known as a pioneer of home medical care in the area, according to a health care official who works in the city.

A third medical worker, who was also taken to hospital after being injured by tear gas, took Watanabe’s shotgun and escaped from the house, police said.

Watanabe owned two shotguns, which he obtained legally in 2000 and 2008, apparently for hunting. The certifications were renewed in November 2020.

According to neighbors, Watanabe lived with his bedridden mother and had little contact with locals.

“I felt like he was really devoted to looking after his mother,” said a 74-year-old woman.

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

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency in Japan, please call 119 for immediate assistance. the TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free, anonymous advice on 03-5774-0992. For those from other countries, visit International Suicide Hotlines for a detailed list of resources and support.

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