Abe was 67. He left a polarizing legacy as a leader who helped rebuild Japan's economy and angered liberals with his hawkish military philosophy.
The killing was even more shocking because Japan, known for its strict gun laws, has one of the lowest homicide rates worldwide. Japan had just 10 criminal gun cases last year despite a population of more than 125 million people, according to the Associated Press.
How was Abe killed?
Abe – a member of the governing Liberal Democratic Party – was killed in the city of Nara in western Japan at around 11:30 a.m. JST. The suspected gunman shot Abe from behind as the former prime minister delivered a campaign speech outside a train station.
Dramatic video captured by NHK, a Japanese media service, shows Abe, wearing a navy blue suit, falling to the ground after two loud bangs, which appeared to be gun shots. Security guards immediately jumped on the suspect.
What were his injuries?
Abe was quickly not breathing and his heart stopped, according to reports, but was airlifted anyway to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
He suffered major damage to his heart and two neck wounds that damaged an artery, according to Nara Medical University emergency department chief Hidetada Fukushima.
Who is the suspected gunman?
Police arrested the suspected gunman, Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, a former member of Japan’s navy.
Police said Yamagami planned to kill him because he believed rumors about the former prime minister's connection to an organization that police did not identify, the Associated Press reported.
The gun found at the scene, about 15 inches long, appeared to be hand-made, according to NHK. Police confiscated similar weapons from his home, a nearby one-room apartment. Police said Yamagami admitted to shooting Abe.
Why was Abe giving a speech?
Abe was campaigning for a candidate running in Sunday's parliamentary elections.
The gun shots rang out as Abe raised his left hand to make a point.
When did Abe serve as prime minister?
Abe resigned as prime minister two years ago after serving two terms – from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020.
He announced his resignation on Aug. 28, 2020, saying that because of poor health, he was no longer able to serve.
What was Abe known for as prime minister?
Abe sought to revise Japan’s constitution, which renounces the use of force in international conflicts and limits Japan's military to self-defense. The constitutional revision failed because of a lack of public support but still has the backing of many ultra-conservatives.
Abe felt that Japan was judged unfairly for its role in World War II and promoted the country’s post-war record of economic success, peace and global cooperation. But critics accused him of trying to whitewash Japan’s actions during the war, and his ultra-nationalism angered the Koreas and China, both wartime adversaries of Japan.
How did President Biden react?
President Joe Biden stopped by the Japanese embassy in Washington on Friday afternoon to sign a condolence book for Abe. "On behalf of the Biden family and all of America, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the Abe family and all of Japan," Biden wrote, recalling how he got to know Abe as vice president. "It is not only a loss to his wife and family – and the people of Japan, it’s a loss to the world. A man of peace and judgment – he will be missed.”
In a statement, Biden called Abe a "champion of the Alliance between our nations and the friendship between our people." Biden said: "I am stunned, outraged, and deeply saddened by the news that my friend Abe Shinzo, former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot and killed while campaigning. This is a tragedy for Japan and for all who knew him."
Former President Barack Obama said he was "shocked and saddened" by Abe's assassination. "I will always remember the work we did to strengthen our alliance, the moving experience of traveling to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor together, and the grace he and his wife Akie Abe showed to me and Michelle."
What are other world leaders saying?
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hastily returned to Tokyo from campaign events around the country, called the shooting “dastardly and barbaric.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "On behalf of the French people, I send my condolences to the Japanese authorities and people after the assassination of Shinzo Abe. Japan is losing a great Prime Minister, who dedicated his life to his country and worked to bring balance to the world.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Saturday as a one-day national mourning as a mark of the deepest respect for Abe. "Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a special strategic and global partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment,” Modi said.
Contributing: Associated Press
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Collins @mcollinsNEWS.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shinzo Abe assassination: What to know about Japan's ex-leader