June 15, 2023
GIFU — An 18-year-old Ground Self-Defense Force cadet allegedly shot fellow GSDF personnel at a firing range in Gifu City on Wednesday morning, killing two and injuring one.
The Gifu prefectural police arrested the male cadet at the scene. The police believe the teen fired a rifle at the personnel with intent to kill. The suspect has admitted to firing the rifle.
The cadet allegedly opened fire at around 9:10 a.m. when SDF members were standing in formation during target practice at the GSDF firing range, according to investigative sources.
The victims were all male members based at Camp Moriyama in Nagoya. According to the police, the deceased victims were aged 52 and 25, and the injured member is 25.
Men and women ages 18-32 can apply to become SDF cadets, who undergo basic training to qualify as SDF members. Cadets who successfully complete the training serve about two to three years in the lowest rank — private in the GSDF, seaman apprentice in the Marine Self-Defense Force and airman third class in the Air Self-Defense Force.
According to the GSDF, the 18-year-old suspect joined a training unit under the direct jurisdiction of the GSDF Middle Army in April this year, and he was based at Camp Moriyama.
He began shooting training after the Golden Week period, which runs from late April to early May.
Cadets first learn how to handle rifles without bullets and then complete exercises with blanks, before starting live-fire training, according to an officer of the GSDF’s 10th Division, which is headquartered in Moriyama Ward, Nagoya. “This is an unprecedented incident. I’m speechless,” the officer said.
The firing range, a 300-meter-long facility of the 10th Division, is situated in a mountainous area about five kilometers northeast of central Gifu City where houses and other buildings are also located.
The prefectural police are believed to be involved in the investigation into the shooting. Incidents that occur at SDF facilities are investigated by the SDF’s police unit, in principle, according to sources. However, police can investigate incidents after consultation between both sides, depending on the circumstances.
Wednesday’s shooting was not the first live-fire incident involving SDF personnel. In February 1984, a GSDF member fired at personnel during a drill at a firing range in Yamaguchi, killing one person and seriously injuring three others. The assailant, who was in his 20s at the time, was arrested, but the case was dropped on the grounds that he was mentally unfit to stand trial.
In May 2016, nine members accidentally fired live ammunition at the GSDF’s Shikaribetsu training area in Shikaoi, Hokkaido, injuring two personnel. The members thought their rifles were loaded with blank cartridges.
In June 2021, a 120-millimeter mortar shell was fired accidentally during a drill at the GSDF’s Aibano training area in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture. The shell landed in a mountain forest about 1 kilometer away. No one was injured.