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Police nabs Yamashita gangland slaying suspect

Date Posted: 2002-08-01

Police arrested a 24-year-old alleged member of Yamaguchi Gumi gangster syndicate, Tuesday, on suspicion of shooting dead a second in charge of a rival gangster group. The shooting in broad daylight occurred Apr. 20 in Yamashita Intersection in front of Naha Military Port in Naha City.

On that day, Kenji Hirota, a gang boss from Osaka was riding in a car when a motorcycle pulled on its side at the intersection. The motorcycle driver then pulled a gun and shot Hirota who was sitting on the back seat through the car window. The female driver of the car tried to speed away, but the man on the motorcycle caught up and shot Hirota again. Hirota died of his wounds shortly after.

The Okinawa Prefectural Police formed a special 28-member task force to investigate the slaying. As the shooting had several eyewitnesses, the police were able to make a composite drawing of the suspect that eventually led to the arrest. The suspect was apprehended in his home in Nagasaki. The police say that the suspect is a known member of Yamaguchi Gumi, the largest gangster syndicate in the nation.

Police sources say that they are currently grilling the suspect, but he has remained silent. Police records show that the suspect used to be a member of a violent motorcycle gang before joining Yamaguchi Gumi.

Investigators say that the suspect had been in Okinawa in January with another member of his gang, ostensibly scouting the territory. After the shooting, the other member helped the suspect to escape and hid the motorcycle. The police found the motorcycle a few days after the incident. Witnesses who had seen the two drinking together at local pubs have also come forward.

The police has suspected from the beginning that the shooting was a revenge against Hirota's group that is accused of killing the number two man of Yamaguchi Gumi in a knife attack in 1997.

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