Hostage dies after 11-hour clash in Saitama

A 66-year-old man attacked three medical workers visiting his home in Saitama Prefecture, shooting two of them with a shotgun, including a doctor who was taken hostage and confirmed dead afterwards, police said.

The 11 a.m. standoff ended early Friday morning after police stormed the home in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture and arrested Hiroshi Watanabe for the incident.

The deceased hostage was Dr Junichi Suzuki, 44, police said. The 41-year-old physiotherapist who accompanied him, who was also shot, remains unconscious.

The three men arrived at the house around 9 p.m. Thursday, apparently to express their condolences for the death of the suspect’s mother the previous day. They were in charge of home medical care for the woman, investigative sources said.

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.

The third medical worker was also taken to hospital after being injured by tear gas, police said.

The suspect was quoted by investigative sources as saying he was angry at the quality of care given to his mother by the medical team and had requested that they visit him.

Police said they found two shotguns at his home.

A local resident called the police after hearing loud bangs. Rescuers also received a report from someone who said two people had been shot.

Police secured the area near a house where a gunman took a hostage in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture on Thursday. | KYODO

Police spoke with Watanabe by phone during the clash. He made no specific request, they said, quoting him as saying the hostage was “fine” and “I want to help him.” Please save it.

Police did not speak directly with the hostage and were unable to confirm his condition.

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

“I felt like he was really devoted to taking care of 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 couldn’t participate in community activities because he had to take care of his mother.

As the standoff continued Friday morning, local authorities had evacuated some 110 nearby residents, and primary and secondary schools in the area were closed for the day. The house is about 2 kilometers from Fujimino Station on Tobu Railway Co.’s Tojo Line.

A 19-year-old university student living nearby said he heard a loud bang on Thursday evening while at home. After being informed of the incident by a police officer, he drove to an elementary school designated as an evacuation site, then headed to another site at a college. “I was scared. I wanted to leave the area quickly.

A 54-year-old man said he saw police cars lined up on a road. “I thought it was a fire, but I was surprised to hear people were evacuating. It’s generally a quiet area,” he said.

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