Police End Japan Yakuza Gangster Standoff - Gun Control in Japan

NAGAKUTE, Japan -- Japanese police have caught a former gangster, ending a more than 24-hour intense standoff during which the man shot a policeman dead after nearly mortally wounding his own son, daughter and another police officer all while holing up in his suburban house.

Television footage Friday showed well over a dozen policemen with helmets and shields and riot gear surrounding the former gangster after he came out of his house holding a bottle and plastic bag. Media reports said he has been arrested under suspicion of attempted murder.

In the latest shoot-out to rattle Japan, the former infamous gangster fatally shot a policeman who was a decorated member of a special assault unit on Thursday evening while a colleague who had been hit earlier was being successfully rescued.

Earlier on Friday, police miraculously rescued the gunman's hostage, who a police spokesman confirmed was the gunman's ex-wife and came out of the house in Nagakute, a posh residential suburb of the central city of Nagoya, by herself.

The stand-off comes one month after a gangster shot a fellow mobster in a upscale Tokyo suburb and hid in an apartment before killing himself, and another gangster shot dead the prominent mayor of Nagasaki, shocking a country where gun control is very tough and shootings very scarce.

About 170 officers, including special units and riot police, were mobilized around the gunman's house, and local schools were closed throughout and on Friday.

"We must push ahead with harsh measures to control firearms, including broad steps against gangsters, so that such a tragic incident won't happen again," Kensei Mizote, cabinet minister head in charge of the police force, specified to reporters.

TV footage earlier graphically showed helmeted police with riot shields successfully rescuing the first policeman, who had been isolated and left lying in front of the house for numerous hours because of threats from the armed gunman, a former member of the notorious Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest crime syndicate.

During that rescue, the gunman shot multiple times at police from the house and a bullet fatally struck the special unit officer in the neck, which was exposed by his bullet-proof vest, Mizote said.

Media reports stated the man had taken the gun out at a time after he and his ex-wife, along with their small children, were talking about reconciling.


Last month's shootings prompted remarks for even stiffer gun control in Japan, a country where legal firearms are mostly in the hands of hunters and police.

Illegal guns are often owned by members of the "yakuza," crime groups whose mainstays include drugs, prostitution, finance operations and extortion.

The recent shootings have brought about an international interest in the yakuza, whose members are often known for their elaborate tattoos and missing little fingers -- cut off to show loyalty to the boss or apologize for mistakes.

The missing fingers and tattoos are no longer trademarks among contemporary Yakuza gangsters, who have successfully blended into society and invest in legitimate businesses opportunities.

Official yakuza membership was noted at 41,500 in 2006, slightly down from 2005, while the number of additional members rose marginally to 43,200. Gang membership within Japan itself is not a crime.

Gun-related crimes are extremely rare in Japan and on the steep decline. The number of shootings in Japan fell to a record-low of 53 last year, with most involving members and leaders of organized crime. Of those, 36 shootings were thought to have involved gangsters. Only two of the shootings resulted in deaths.


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