Photo/Illutration Police officers tackle suspect Tetsuya Yamagami on July 8 after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot while giving a campaign speech in Nara. (Mami Ueda)

Some Nara prefectural police officers raised concerns about the security detail planned for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the event where he was fatally shot, sources said.

But the last-minute notification of his visit had apparently prevented those concerns from being more seriously evaluated.

That is according to investigative sources who are examining the failure by police to stop a lone gunman from killing Abe on July 8.

Nara prefectural police only learned the previous day that Abe would be visiting the prefecture in central Japan to give a campaign speech.

And additional details, such as where specifically in front of the Kintetsu Line’s Yamato-Saidaiji Station in Nara city Abe would be speaking from, only emerged later on July 7.

The same location was used by Toshimitsu Motegi, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, when he gave a speech on June 25.

Nara prefectural police based the security plan for Abe on the one drawn up for Motegi.

Additional police officers were assigned to Abe’s security detail because a larger audience was expected for his speech.

The officer in the Nara prefectural police Security Bureau handling the matter completed the plan on the evening of July 7 and presented it to the head of the Security Bureau along with Tomoaki Onizuka, the chief of the Nara prefectural police, once they started work the following day.

Both officials approved the plan with no suggested changes.

But other police officers raised concerns that Abe would be visible from all angles. Ultimately, no revisions were made because preparations to carry out the plan were already in motion, sources said.

More than 20 police officers were involved in the security detail, including senior officers who would oversee the operation from prefectural police headquarters as well as the Nara-Nishi Police Station.

About a dozen or so officers were on the scene where Abe was to give his speech.

Four police officers in charge of protecting Abe stood within the area marked off by a guard rail where Abe was to speak. A security police officer from the Metropolitan Police Department and an officer from Nara prefectural police stood behind Abe to his left. Two Nara police stood behind Abe to his right.

One of the officers off to Abe’s right was tasked with keeping an eye out for anything that might occur behind Abe. But because a lot of people had gathered in front to Abe’s right, that officer became more concerned about watching for suspicious characters in that crowd.

The other three on the security detail were looking at the audience facing Abe.

None of them had realized that Tetsuya Yamagami, 41, had left the sidewalk behind Abe and walked closer to him.

When the first shot rang out, the security police officer from Tokyo placed his body between Abe and Yamagami and held up a bulletproof shield shaped like a bag.

The officer explained that he wanted to use his body to shield Abe, but the second shot ricocheted off the bulletproof shield and hit Abe instead.

The two shots fired by Yamagami were separated by about 2.7 seconds. But because the security police officer was about two meters from Abe, it was unlikely he would have been able to reach Abe in time.

All four officers said the first shot sounded more like fireworks or a tire bursting than a gunshot.

“The (security police officer) may have been somewhat too far from the person he was supposed to protect,” said a high-ranking officer in the Nara prefectural police.

But the officer did move closer to Abe when a cart passed through the road before the shooting.

When Abe began speaking, a police officer was standing near the corner of the sidewalk where Yamagami was before he moved closer to Abe.

Another police officer was stationed at the bus terminal to the rear of where Abe was speaking.

But no restrictions were in place for the road behind where Abe was speaking, and cars and bicycles freely passed by.

No police officer noticed or tried to stop Yamagami as he approached Abe.

“I believe all the police officers deployed at the site of the speech were each carrying out their own duties,” a high-ranking officer of the Nara prefectural police said. “The problem may have been an insufficient security detail plan, including precautions for the area behind Abe.”

The National Police Agency set up a team on July 12 to examine the security details and the results of that investigation are expected to be released by the end of August.

A proposal to review the security details for former prime ministers is expected at the same time.

One observer suggested the team may decide to recommend putting the National Police Agency in charge of security, depending on the circumstances, rather than relying on the current system that puts prefectural police in charge.