Defense Minister blasts Friday assault incident

Allegations of a U.S. airman breaking into a Yomitan apartment less than a kilometer from Kadena Air Base in the Furugen district, and then beating up a 13-year-old boy early Friday is raising a furor stretching from Okinawa to Tokyo.

Authorities say the 24-year-old airman had been drinking in a bar on the first floor of the three-story building, and then climbed to the third floor about 1 a.m. and broke in, punched the boy, and then broke a television set before attempting to escape through a window.  That effort was not successful; the airman fell, and is now hospitalized at the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa with broken bones and internal injuries.

The airman reportedly began behaving violently at the bar about 1 a.m. Friday, after being told it’s the time for him to go home, leading the bar owner to call police.  Local police say they received a call from the bar owner complaining the man was drunk and making trouble.  When they arrived at the bar, they found the suspect lying on the ground after having jumped from the third-floor window.

Details of the assault are being widely reported by Japanese news media, including national broadcaster NHK, and the story has quickly been picked up worldwide by the Associated Press and  American broadcaster ABC.  The junior high school student told police, “I was sleeping in the living room when I was awoken by someone slapping me on the head. I found a foreigner standing there.”

The incident comes only two weeks after U.S. Forces Japan placed all U.S. military personnel on a 11 p.m.  ~ 5 a.m. curfew following the rape of an Okinawa woman by two U.S. Navy personnel.  The two sailors were on a short temporary duty stint on Okinawa when then grabbed and attacked the young woman in Okinawa City.  Both have confessed to the deed.

The airman is currently in U.S. custody. Okinawa police say they intend to question him on suspicion of illegal entry of a private residence, causing injury and damaging property once he recovers from his injuries.  Under the Status of Forces Agreement between Japan and the United States, the serviceman will remain in U.S. custody until Japanese prosecutors indict him.

Today’s incident has raised the ire of both the Defense Minister and the Foreign Minister.  Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said “This is unforgivable” when learning of the airman’s action.  The Japanese Foreign Ministry, working with unusual speed, has already lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. Ambassador, John Roos.  Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba called the alleged incident as “outrageous, and a shaken Roos emerged from his meeting with Senior Vice Foreign Minister Shuji Kira, saying that he was beside himself with anger over the incident. Roos offered his apologies to the youth–a junior high school student–and his family.

The 18th Wing Vice Commander at Kadena Air Base, Air Force Colonel Brian McDaniel, has told the media “we are fully cooperating with Okinawan authorities on this investigation to ensure justice is served.

Since the October 16th rape, opposition to American troops has flared, with mass protests even recalling the 1995 rape of a junior high school girl by three American GI’s.  That incident 17 years ago led to plans to close Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, but that’s been repeatedly stalled over difficulties getting everyone to agree exactly where to move the airfield to.  Currently, plans call for moving Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago City in Northern Okinawa, on Camp Schwab.

Aside from the October rape, protesters have been active in demanding the MV-22 Ospreys deployed to Futenma be removed.  A protest earlier this week attracted about 1,300 people arguing the aircraft is not safe to operate here.

  • JohnS

    The never-ending stream of crimes by America’s violent teenagers inflicted upon this poor island continues..

    • Okinawa Resident

      The crime wasn’t committed by a teenager, he is 24 years old. The idiot assaulted a teenage boy. Which probably made him feel like a super hero because he then proceeded to “fly” from the scene of the crime. I have a few questions…1- Where were his “battle buddies” or whatever they are called? Probably the ones egging him on to do it or not there at all. 2- Why was he out past curfew? 3- Everyone is aware of the curfew, including locals, so why did they continue to serve him and then only call police once he started “acting violently”? 4- How much of this training/ reflection period has actually worked since the end of the war? There have been many curfews placed on the military here and that is when the crimes seem to spike. There needs to be a more strict punishment for the offenders. Why is that so hard to understand? If the punishment is severe enough, all you will need is 1 example. Is society soft now that we have forgotten that criminals are called that because they committed a CRIME?

      • Wade

        Some other news sources reported that the reason he was acting rudely at the bar is because the staff was aware of the curfew and suggested he leave around 11pm. He didn’t like being asked to leave so he got an attitude and starting making a scene at the bar.

      • Dylan

        You’re Screen name says Okinawa Resident but yet you seem to be out of touch with some realities there otherwise you wouldn’t have such dumb questions. First, it is ridiculous to state that his “Battle Buddies” (for Air Force are “Wingmen”) would Egg him on to break into an apartment for no apparent reason and then jump out a window, he obviously did not go out with a Wingman like he was supposed to. Second, you don’t have to be on base after that time if you live off base, yes the curfew does apply to be out of any establishment that makes the majority of its income through alcohol sales. Obviously he violated that, which holds a very steep penalty as it is, which is at MINIMUM an Article 15 and loss of rank. Third, everyone is aware of the curfew, and have been for years, this doesn’t change the fact that many business are only able to thrive because of the money the American military spend in bars and/or clubs. So you ask why did they continue to serve him, wait for it……MONEY!! Shocking I know. The reality is that many military members are in bars or clubs after hours and do not have any issues, they are well adjusted and responsible adults. Fourth the reflection periods have in large part have been caused by military that are on island for temporary missions, i.e. 3 years ago 4th of July, when a sailor stole a hummer and did a hit and run DWI on a japanese cop, she was there on a temporary mission. You take into account that there are 25000 military members stationed there and then at times a 1000 more in temporary missions there, working high stress jobs, loss of family life, away from home(sometimes for 3 years, yes I delt with that), in an environment that is prone for binge drinking these events will happen. Did you happen to look at the next article on Japan Update, about a 16 year old breaking into an apartment and stealing 14 million yen worth of valuables? Americans are not the only source of crime in Okinawa.

        • Okinawa Resident

          So I’m thinking that you assume because the Japanese are doing it then it must be ok right? Is that how you live your life? Huh? Monkey see, monkey do. Do you realize that you are a guest in a foreign country? Article 15- oh no not that. Loss of rank-pff the AF gets promoted so fast that wouldn’t matter anyway. You obviously have not been here long enough or don’t have enough common sense to figure out that BEING A SERVICE MEMBER IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY PUTS YOU UNDER THE MICROSCOPE FOR THE SMALLEST THING. Yeah there are Japanese out there that are committing crimes but guess what, wait for it…THEY ARE JAPANESE! It doesn’t make as big of an impact. I guess you need everything broken down Barney-style right. You are a poor example of leadership (if that is a position you are in). As far as your comments about my dumb questions, there are service members that will encourage stupid, senseless actions for entertainment purposes ESPECIALLY if they are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. I’ve seen it personally. Second, the order I read, which in case you didn’t know, originated from John Roos, that was signed by General Angelella stated specifically that you are to be in a private residence during the hours of the curfew. Someone didn’t pay attention in their training. It goes on to state that if you are TAD/TDY and stationed here, you must be in your place of lodging which may be a hotel room, but does not include the lounge, bar or casino. If you are here temporarily you are not suppose to leave base anytime except for going to work/duty, place of worship, restaurant (a food establishment that the primary income is NOT from alcoholic drinks) and medical or dental treatment. Sounds like you could use some more training or maybe work on your reading comprehension. If you need a copy of the order i will gladly forward it to you so you can see for yourself.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Harper/1485921764 Ken Harper

      When one of these guys get caught by the wrong people, they will be sent home in a box. Of course there will be an investigation, with no arrests.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Harper/1485921764 Ken Harper

    Okinawan residents need to arm themselves if there are a few members of the U S armed forces don’t want to obey the laws in Japan. To all Okinawans just arm yourselves & shoot first if any american service member is threatening your life. Its that simple, then this will end, you guys have the advantage. It’s your country, defend your life & your country’s “HONOR”.

    • Okinawa Resident

      Are you one of the idiots that protest against the U.S.?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ken-Harper/1485921764 Ken Harper

        No,all people have the right to protect themselves from crimnals !! No matter what country they live in.