Two arrested in search for military surplus
September 26, 2003
GINOWAN, Okinawa — Local police have arrested two men after searching homes and businesses of nine people allegedly associated with a Japan Air Self-Defense force sergeant who blew himself up Aug. 31.
Seiei Shiroma, 45, and Yoshikazu Yasura, 33, were arrested for possessing bayonets following police searches Monday, authorities said. The two men own military surplus shops in Yonabaru and Okinawa City, respectively.
Police did not disclose the identity of the other people operating or owning locations targeted in the sweep.
The people targeted in the raids included Shiroma and Yasura, four other military surplus outlet operators and three vendors who operate booths at a flea market along a public access road in Okinawa City’s Kadena Ammunition Storage Area.
The searches stemmed from an ongoing investigation, sparked by the death of Senior Master Sgt. Takio Tamura, into possible violations of Japan’s Firearms and Swords Control Law, police said. Tamura had been cleaning decades-old rocket-propelled grenades for resale at the time of his death.
The law generally prohibits possession of swords and firearms.
Searches of Tamura’s two homes in Naha the week following the blast turned up surplus military clothing, gear, weapons and ammunition, including rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder launchers and M-16 rifles.
The two neighborhoods were evacuated Sept. 6 while U.S. Air Force explosive ordnance experts destroyed the small rockets.
The investigation confirmed Tamura collected military surplus goods and resold them at the flea market in Okinawa City, near the junkyard where the explosion occurred, police said. Tamura also dealt in surplus military items with operators of businesses specializing in military surplus goods.
The week after the explosion, Okinawa City ordered the flea market closed, but operators organized a committee to fight to remain open. The market remains open, but a few stalls are closed and remaining sellers say business has been cut in half since the controversy.