Police: Suspect in shooting has ties to Japan mob
An unemployed Hiroshima man said he shot a young sailor from Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station early Sunday to teach him a lesson.
Tomoyuki Matsumoto, 37, of Minami Ward in Hiroshima, turned himself in at the Hiroshima Higashi police station about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday. He said he shot the 21-year-old U.S. servicemember because the sailor cut in front of his car in a downtown entertainment district, a Hiroshima Prefectural Police spokesman said Wednesday.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric S. Heinze, an Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station Branch Medical Clinic preventive medicine corpsman, remained in a hospital in Hiroshima on Wednesday, a base official said. He could remain another few days, the official said, but “is recovering very well and experiencing no unusual pain.”
Matsumoto remained in custody and under investigation Wednesday afternoon. Police said he brought a gun to the police station, where he was arrested at about 10:33 p.m. for possessing an automatic handgun in violation of the firearms and sword control law.
“We received official notification about the arrest Wednesday morning,” said Capt. Stewart Upton, a base spokesman. “We are pleased with the cooperation we’ve had working with the local police and have great confidence in their efforts.”
Two other servicemembers walking with Heinze were uninjured, officials have said. The base command continued Wednesday not to restrict Hiroshima travel because of the shooting.
“Matsumoto said he fired the gun and was aiming at the sailor’s stomach because he wanted to ‘give him a lesson,’” the police spokesman said.
Heinze later told police, the spokesman noted, that when he saw something shiny in Matsumoto’s car, he immediately realized it was a gun. As Matsumoto pulled the trigger, Heinze, “sensing danger,” simultaneously turned his back. The bullet hit the left side of his waist.
Matsumoto then left his car and spoke in Japanese to the two other sailors. “Say it again and I will shoot you guys, too,” he told them, police said.
“Apparently,” the spokesman added, “Matsumoto misunderstood that the servicemembers had said something as they crossed in front of his car.”
The spokesman added that Matsumoto belonged to Kyoseikai, one of the largest underground organizations in Hiroshima. “He told investigators that he was ‘excommunicated’ from the gang 10 days before the incident,” the spokesman added.
At the time of the shooting, Matsumoto’s left leg was in a cast. Police said they are investigating whether it was injured in a traffic accident or from gang violence.
In addition, police are trying to determine if he was under the influence of drugs when he shot Heinze.
The type of handgun Matsumoto used has yet to be determined, the police spokesman said, although law enforcement officials believe it is a .22-caliber automatic pistol.
Police added that Matsumoto turned himself in once he realized his car was missing from a parking lot about four miles from the shooting. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, authorities had confiscated the vehicle from the parking facility in the Gion District in Hiroshima’s Asa Minami Ward.
“Apparently,” the prefectural police spokesman said, “he realized that he had been identified and could no longer escape.”
The spokesman said police have rejected speculation that Matsumoto intentionally committed the crime to be caught, so he would be safe in custody and protected from gang members.