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MP’s detain, release American teens suspected of shoplifting

Date Posted: 2008-04-18

Okinawa City Police are frustrated over interference by American military police at a shoplifting incident in Chatan Town.

The two Marine dependents were caught shoplifting in a Mihama area clothing store by a clerk who saw T-shirts being placed into a bag. When asked to see inside the bag, the boys tried to escape, but were caught by the clerk and four other store employees. Eyewitnesses who saw the scuffle told police more than 60 people were in the area at the time.

As store employees were calling Japanese police, someone called the Military Police, who arrived on the scene first. They told the store employees to “Please release them. We will take care of them.” The boys were handcuffed by MP’s. Okinawa City Police asked “to interrogate the two boys” and told MP’s “we need to keep the boys with us.”

Military Police refused, telling local police “we have to take them to the base”. Once on the base, MP’s released the boys. Okinawa City Police Monday went to the military for assistance in talking to the boys. The 16-year-old showed up for the interview, telling police he didn’t shoplift. The 17-year-old boy refused to appear for the interrogation.

Japanese lawyers are crying foul, saying the MP’s had no authority to take the boys to the base. They cite the Status of Forces Agreement, which says military police cannot arrest a person off base when they’ve been caught at the crime scene. Attorneys say only Japanese police have arrest authority in such cases.

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