Two SDF members died and another was injured in the shooting incident in Gifu City, central Japan. Police arrested an 18-year-old male SDF candidate on suspicion of attempted murder.
The suspect reportedly started shooting with an automatic rifle shortly after training began at the shooting range around 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
A 25-year-old and a 52-year-old man have been confirmed dead, and another 25-year-old man is hospitalized. The three were SDF members in charge of training.
The suspect reportedly told police that he intentionally shot his instructor. He also said he shot an SDF member who was next to him because he stood between himself and the instructor and blocked his way.
GSDF to establish investigative committee
Ground Self-Defense Force Chief of Staff General Morishita Yasunori said the organization will set up a committee to investigate the incident. Morishita spoke at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
"This kind of incident should never have happened at an organization that handles weapons. As the GSDF's chief of staff, I take this very seriously," he said.
GSDF: Shooting occurred during live-fire training
The GSDF said the shooting occurred during live-fire training to instruct new members, including candidates.
The shooter was arrested at the scene after firing upon three SDF members.
The GSDF said the shooting range is managed by its 10th Division, headquartered in Nagoya City. Members of the division use the range for automatic rifle and gun practice.
GSDF candidates train for 3 months
GSDF candidates receive basic instruction and training for three months before they can become SDF members.
The GSDF accepts applications throughout the year from across the country. People between the ages of 18 and 33 can apply. Tests for candidates include written, oral and physical exams.
Shop employee: SDF staff asked for AED device
An employee at a retail store near the shooting range said that SDF personnel came to the store at around 9:30 a.m. and asked him if the store had an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
He said he went to a nearby community center to borrow the device and handed it over to them. He said that the SDF personnel looked "pale, and in a rush."
A resident who lives near the shooting range said that he saw people he believed to be SDF members hugging each other and crying outside the building. He said he has lived in the area for decades, but had never seen an incident like this one.
Another female resident said she was surprised because the neighborhood is usually quiet. She added that she was relieved that the suspect had been arrested because she was worried about her child, a student at a local elementary school.
Matsuno: Such an incident 'should never happen'
Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu said at a daily news conference on Wednesday afternoon that he understands the defense ministry will investigate the cause of the incident and make efforts to prevent a recurrence.
Matsuno said he will refrain from commenting on details as the shooting is under investigation, but he said such an incident "should never happen."
Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu spoke separately to reporters and told them that he had instructed officials to fully cooperate with the investigation.
Hamada took responsibility for the incident, saying, "I apologize for causing great concern to the people of Japan. I sincerely pray for the repose of the two SDF members who died and offer my condolences to their families."