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8 soldiers charged in death of Chinese-American private

By Chris Hawley
Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:28 p.m. HST, Dec 21, 2011

NEW YORK » Eight U.S. soldiers have been charged in the death of a fellow GI, a Chinese-American who apparently shot himself in Afghanistan after being subjected to what a community activist said were assaults and ethnic taunts from his comrades.

Pvt. Danny Chen, a 19-year-old from New York's Chinatown neighborhood, was found in a guard tower in Kandahar province Oct. 3 with what the Army said appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In a statement, the Army said Wednesday that eight soldiers in his company were charged with crimes ranging from dereliction of duty to negligent homicide and manslaughter.

Military officials gave no details on exactly what role the soldiers are alleged to have played in Chen's death. But a community activist raised the possibility that their bullying drove him to suicide.

Chen's fellow soldiers dragged him across the floor, threw stones at the back of his head, forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while upside down as part of an apparent hazing, and called him "Jackie Chen" in a mocking accent in a reference to the action star Jackie Chan, according to Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

The details of his alleged hazing came from Facebook and email messages, discussions with cousins and a few pages of Chen's journal released by the Army, OuYang said at a Chinatown news conference.

"Whether suicide or homicide, those responsible for mistreating Danny are responsible for his death," she said.

Chen's relatives said they were encouraged by the charges.

"We realize that Danny will never return, but it gives us some hope," said Yen Tao Chen, his father, speaking through a translator. Chen's parents are immigrants from China.

Community activists said the Army still has not fully explained the circumstances of Chen's death. They are meeting with Pentagon officials Jan. 4.

"We need to know the whole truth," Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., said. She added: "Racial discrimination and intolerance have no place in today's military."

The Army announced earlier it is investigating Chen's death.

Chen was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska.

The Army identified the soldiers charged as 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden. Their hometowns were not released.

VanBockel, Holcomb, Hurst, Curtis and Offutt were charged with the most serious offenses, including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and assault and battery.

Schwartz, the only officer among the accused, was charged with dereliction of duty.

The soldiers are still in Afghanistan but have been assigned to a different base, removed from their duty positions and placed under closer supervision, the military said.

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vidinha77 wrote:
The very people that this PVT should have been able to entrust his life with let him down. These soldiers are all his superiors which make this case even worse. My prayers go out to the family. This type of behavior has no place in society, let alone in the Armed Services.
on December 21,2011 | 01:03PM
Squidy wrote:
It's outrageous that the individuals charged are mostly higher ranking officers and NCOs. The poor kid probably felt really vulnerable and helpless being subjected to that kind of intimidation and isolation while in a foreign war zone by his fellow soldiers! The racial harassment reminds me of what happened to USMC Captain Bruce Yamashita when he was in OCS over 20 years ago. Unfortunately some behaviors are really hard to change.
on December 21,2011 | 06:35PM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
What has the Army of One become? Aren't they supposed to be fighting the Taliban in the name of bringing freedom & democracy to the Middle east? The Army & the military leaders needs to get their act together before this nonsense comes home state side.
on December 21,2011 | 08:25PM
High_Society wrote:
Too bad the media doesn't publish the other side of the story. They only talk about what happened AFTER Chen let his fellow soldiers down. The man fell asleep numerous times while pulling guard duty. In a combat zone, it is critical that everyone on guard duty be fully awake and alert. MEN CAN DIE if someone isn't properly guarding their part of the perimeter. He fell asleep on numerous occasions. This could have been devastating if enemy soldiers were able to breach the perimeter while Chen was asleep. His punishment was minor compared to what could have happened.
on December 21,2011 | 08:38PM
liberalsFAIL wrote:
H_S you are mistaken. Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew of Santa Clara, CA is the one who supposedly fell asleep while on guard duty and killed himself afterwards. Private Danny Chen of New York City appears to be a victim of blatant racism and hazing. Still both incidents are sad commentaries on how unprofessional some of those in uniform are.
on December 21,2011 | 09:28PM
alohi123 wrote:
As illustrated by High Society's response, part of our society's problem, is ignorance and hasty judgments. Do not lump Asians, military personnel and others together as faceless, indistinct people. Lew was a Marine. Chen was in the army. Their surnames are distinctly different. They were 2 military men serving their country. Their individual lives mattered and still have value. The mistreatment they suffered in the armed forces is inexcusable and ironic because they lost their lives to "the enemy within. " Did they not have any "comrades in arms" brave enough to blow the whistle on their tormenters?
on December 22,2011 | 05:41AM
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