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Naha shooting leaves gang boss dead

Date Posted: 2002-04-22

A reputed number two of an Osaka-based gangster group was shot dead at an intersection in Kakinohana, Naha City, Saturday afternoon. According to Okinawa Prefectural Police, the gangster, identified by the police as Kenji Hirota, the reputed number two of a Osaka-based Nakano Group, was riding in his car on Hwy 331 after picking up a female acquaintance at Naha Airport. The woman was driving the car, and when they stopped at Yamashita Intersection, a man on a motorcycle pulled to its side, and began firing shots with a semi-automatic pistol through the side window of the car at the gangster who was sitting on the front seat.

The woman driving the car immediately sped forward trying to escape the attack. She managed to drive the car on Highway 58 up to Izumizaki Intersection where she was forced to stop again. On the way she crashed into several cars including a taxi and a bus. However, the assailant had followed them and opened fire again as they stopped. He then threw the gun on the street and sped away. Hirota was taken to Naha Hospital where he died an hour later of his wounds. Police say that Hirota had been hit in the chest, stomach and throat.

Although the incident had several eyewitnesses, none could provide an accurate description of the assailant as he was wearing a helmet that covered his entire face. The only clue that has emerged so far is that the motorcycle had Kita-Kyushu number plates. A taxi driver whose car had been side-swept by the fleeing gangster’s car said that he gave a chase, but as he arrived at the intersection where the second shooting took place, he found a hysterical woman in the car and a blood-covered man slumped on the passenger’s seat. “This car driven by a woman came from nowhere and side-swept my car and continued without stopping. I became angry and followed. I saw the car stop, and when I approached she just kept screaming,” the driver said.

Police suspect that the shooting is a continuation of a gang war between Nakano Gang and its former parent organization Yamaguchi Gumi, the largest criminal organization in the nation. The war started in 1997 when members of Nakano Gang allegedly shot dead the then number two boss of Yamaguchi Gumi. According to Hyogo Prefectural Police Hirota has been on the wanted list for some time in connection of an alleged golf-course development fraud. He has reportedly been visiting Okinawa on a regular basis for at least past 10 years, but for some reason Okinawa Prefectural Police had not been informed about Hirota and his activities.

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