Suspect in gym shootings found dead at church

Kyodo

The alleged gunman in Friday’s shooting rampage at a sports club in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, was found dead at a nearby church Saturday after apparently committing suicide, police said.

Two people were killed and six others were injured by the gunman, who came in the front entrance of Sports Club Renaissance Sasebo at around 7:10 p.m. and started firing what was believed to be a shotgun. The man targeted both people in the gym and in a pool where children were taking lessons. He also fired shots in the lobby and an office.

The deceased were identified as 26-year-old female swimming instructor Mai Kuramoto and 36-year-old fishing gear maker Yuji Fujimoto.

The six injured included a 9-year-old girl and two 10-year-old girls, but their injuries are not life-threatening, police officials said.

The police said they plan to press murder charges against the deceased man, Masayoshi Magome, and hand the case over to prosecutors.

The police are looking into the possibility there was trouble between Magome and Fujimoto and whether this led to the shooting. Investigators also searched Magome’s residence for clues about his motive.

Police found the 37-year-old suspect lying dead in a pool of blood near a church in the town of Funakoshi about 5 km southwest of the gym, the officials said. He was dressed in camouflage and a shotgun was found nearby. The body was later identified as Magome’s, they added.

Magome, who was a member of the church, is believed to have killed himself at around 5:44 a.m., when a gunshot was heard coming from the building, police said.

Magome, from Funakoshi, is the owner of a white minivan that was found in front of the church early Saturday. Inside were two shotguns, an air gun and camouflage clothing, the officials said.

The police had been searching for Magome on the assumption that he fled with another shotgun he owned. Magome had permits for three shotguns and an air gun, the officials said.

Magome was a classmate and good friends with Fujimoto through junior high and high school, police reports and Fujimoto’s friends said.

The two sometimes went fishing together and had lunch as recently as Thursday, Fujimoto’s family said.

The police said Magome told the sports club Thursday that he wanted to bring three of his friends to the gym on Friday to show them around.

According to the sports club, Magome either telephoned or sent e-mail to Fujimoto and others, telling them to wait in a corridor inside the gym.

It is also believed that Magome knew Kuramoto because the suspect knew one of his friends, the officials said. Police are also looking into the possibility he had problems with Kuramaoto, the officials said.

The officials said he joined the gym in June this year and had used it about 80 times since August.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters Saturday that he was worried Japan’s peaceful image is deteriorating.

“I’m worried (that Japan) may have become just like foreign countries . . . we have to think of a good way” to prevent this from happening again.

The six people injured in the incident said the gunman was wearing a camouflage suit, a silver-gray down jacket and a full-face helmet. He was described as well-built and about 170 to 190 cm tall.

The gunman entered the building from the front entrance and started randomly shooting people. He then headed to a swimming pool on the second floor.

Kuramoto was shot in an office behind a reception counter, the police said.

According to the police, Kuramoto was shot in the back and Fujimoto in the chest. Magome fired more than ten times, they said.

There were about 50 members and 20 staff present at the time of the shooting, according to the club’s Tokyo-based operator, Renaissance Inc.

The site is in a residential area about 2 km north of JR Sasebo Station, with a city residents’ hall, a junior high school and a nursing facility nearby.