Eight Soldiers Charged with Private Danny Chen’s DeathNEWS, PEOPLE Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Shirley Lew, contributing reporter, twitter: @ShirleyNLew
Just last week, a vigil for Private Danny Chen of Chinatown was held in Lower Manhattan to demand answers for the cause of his death.
Now, after two months of mounting pressure from the community and Chinese-American advocacy groups, the Army has formally charged eight officers with his death.
During a news conference in Chinatown on Wednesday morning, Danny’s mother, Mrs. Suz Zhen Chen wept when the announcement of the charges were made. She was surrounded by her husband, family, friends, and local officials who were delighted by the news.
Five of the officers charged are: Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis and Specialist Ryan Offutt, all of Third Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, First Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25thInfantry Division. In a statement by the Army, their charges were involuntary manslaughter, assault, dereliction of duty, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat, maltreatment and making a false official statement.
Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement. Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz was the only one charged with dereliction of duty. Sgt. Travis F. Carden was charged with assault and maltreatment.
Chen’s body was found in a guard tower and died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on October 3 in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The investigation continues if the gunshot wound was self-inflicted or if his death was a homicide.
Earlier in the investigation, it has been reported to Chen’s family that Private Chen was a victim of hazing while serving in Afghanistan. His letters from Afghanistan spoke of physical abuse and ethnic slurs.
In a statement made by NYC Councilwoman, Margaret Chin, “The charges prove that the actions of these soldiers were contributing factors in Danny’s death. These individuals must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Chen’s death has rallied up support in the Chinese-American community to press for a continued investigation on exactly who pulled the trigger,and to prevent such a tragedy from ever happen again.
Elizabeth R. OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese-Americans said during the news conference, “Whether suicide or homicide, those responsible for mistreating Danny caused his death. No plea-bargaining. There must be a strong message sent that this type of unlawful misconduct cannot be tolerated.”
In October, three Marines were to face court-martial in charges on the death of 21 year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Harry Lew of California, another Chinese-American.
Lew was found dead on April 3rd from a self-inflicted gunshot after being hazed and allegedly beaten by fellow members. He was stationed in Oahu and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and 3rd Marine Division. Disciplinary action on the three Marines charged has not been clear.
In January, Chen’s family will travel to the Pentagon to meet with Army officials as the investigation on Chen’s death continues.
A Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby said hazing is not tolerated.
What justice would you like to see served? What changes would you like to see made to the treatment of Chinese-Americans and other ethnic groups in the military?
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