Suspect in Saitama hostage standoff had hoped to kill himself and medical team

A man who was arrested after a deadly 11-hour hostage standoff that ended Friday in Saitama Prefecture has suggested that he intended to kill himself and his mother’s doctor, who he blamed for her death, police sources said Saturday.

The Saitama Prefectural Police sent the man, Hiroshi Watanabe, 66, to public prosecutors Saturday after upgrading the charge against him from attempted murder to murder.

In the incident, the 44-year-old doctor, Junichi Suzuki, was shot in the chest and later confirmed dead, while a 41-year-old physical therapist at Suzuki’s clinic was seriously wounded.

Watanabe’s 92-year-old mother had been using the clinic’s home care service until she died Wednesday. On Thursday evening, the doctor and six other staff members from the clinic visited the suspect’s home in Fujimino, Saitama Prefecture, at his request.

Hiroshi Watanabe | KYODO

According to the sources, Watanabe has told investigators that he was thinking of killing himself, the doctor and other staffers. Watanabe was quoted by investigative sources as saying he was angry at the quality of his mother’s care by the medical team.

At around 9 p.m. Thursday, Watanabe fired a shotgun inside his house and took the doctor hostage. He was seized after police stormed the home Friday morning.

The doctor was known as a pioneer of home-visit medical care in the area, according to a health care manager who works in the city.

A third medical worker was also taken to a hospital after being injured with tear gas spray, the police said.

Watanabe owned two shotguns, which he obtained legally in 2000 and 2008, ostensibly for hunting. The certifications were renewed in November 2020.

According to neighbors, Watanabe was living with his bedridden mother and had little contact with residents in the area.

“I got the impression he was really devoted to caring for his mother,” said a 74-year-old woman.

Watanabe moved to the area with his mother several years ago, a 91-year-old man in the neighborhood said. He recalled Watanabe saying he could not join in community activities because he had to take care of his mother.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency in Japan, please call 119 for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. For those in other countries, visit International Suicide Hotlines for a detailed list of resources and assistance.

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Suspect in Saitama hostage standoff had hoped to kill himself and medical team

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