8 US Soldiers Charged in Death of Infantryman From Chinatown

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eight U.S. soldiers have been charged in connection with the death of a soldier from New York City, the military said Wednesday.

Private Danny Chen, 19, died of a gunshot wound to the head in a guard tower in Kandahar province on October 3.

The soldiers face charges including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and dereliction of duty. The military did not provide specific information on how they may have contributed to Chen’s death.

"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.

With the help of an interpreter, Su Zhen Chen, Danny's mother, said on Wednesday that the news gave her some comfort and relief that the Army is taking this seriously. She said she hopes what happened to her only son doesn't happen again.

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 were charged Wednesday, according to an army press release.

Chen had only been in Afghanistan for two months when he died. He was reportedly abused at the hands of these soldiers for being Asian-American.

"Pvt. Chen really represents the best of New York's Chinatown and our nation's immigrant tradition," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez. "And if there is a message to everyone in this country , especially to the armed forces, is that racial intolerance and racial discrimination have no place in our military."

The congresswoman said Chen's fellow soldiers had 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.

Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the charges, but added that not only must the soldiers responsible for Chen's death be charged, they must be found guilty.

The eight men have been relieved of their official duties and moved to a different forward operating base, or FOB, in southern Afghanistan, according to Sgt. 1st Class Alan G. Davis, a military spokesman.

However, the accused soldiers are not being detained.

"They are under increased supervision," Davis wrote in an email. "And the nature of a deployed environment inherently restricts soldiers to the FOB."

Since Chen’s death, advocates, elected officials, and his family have pushed for the details of his death to be released in a series of rallies and other events.

Wellington Chen, head of the Chinatown Partnership and an advocate for the Chen family, related a Chinese saying that you "cannot wrap a fire with paper, the truth will  come out. Hope that Danny did not die in vain, better treatment of minorities in the Army."

The family and advocate will be meeting with the Army on January 4.

The military said it currently has no timeline for an Article 32, which is the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing in civilian court.

Davis said the eight soldiers will likely be prosecuted in Afghanistan.


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Comments [9]

KingFish from Ft. Benning, Ga

An Infantry Line Company is NO place to force multiculturalism and inclusions of the hollywoods latest TV pals (ie gays and transexuals).

I mean, there are some real baaaaad a$$es there.

In fact, pound for pound, no one group could kick their ass... (gangs in new orleans found out the hard way about screwing with spec ops...)

Infantrymen are not cops... They are far more dangerous and their training is specific to kill and maim the enemy... whomever the enemy is... And they are very very good at it and very very experienced at it.

Just don't fu*k with them is what I would advise. It's that simple.

Police forces should save themselves the grief by letting these guys cool down.... It sure would beat the body counts that result when these guys are cornered!

Jan. 10 2012 06:52 PM

it all boils down to racism within US society and even in US military. what a freaking disgrace! dont worry this will swept under the rug. as the person who was killed is just another asian american. not a pretty white guy or woman! death to racism!

Dec. 22 2011 03:57 PM
bill from nevada

I am very sorry for the loss of PVT Chen and the family my heart is with you all, i am at a loss for words because nothing can bring him back to you,he served us and with that i am very proud of him, i did not know him but i am proud i'm SORRY, God bless your family((((.

Dec. 22 2011 12:00 AM
JW Traveler from Brooklyn

This is a terrible tragedy and the behavior of Pvt. Chen's fellow soldiers is reprehensible and inexcusable. I share the outrage of many others. But where is the outrage at the thousands of servicemen who have raped their female counterparts and have never been held accountable as the military still refuses to address the pervasive problem of sexual assault in the armed forces.
And if these 8 soldiers are being prosecuted for bullying Pvt. Chen to the point of suicide, why are bullies who abuse gay teens til they commit suicide not prosecuted.
I am not suggesting that these 8 soldiers should not be prosecuted; I'm just asking why some forms of abuse are acceptable and others aren't.

Dec. 21 2011 08:44 PM

You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

Dec. 21 2011 07:53 PM
Michael from Upper Eastside, Manhattan

Jade and K Yau's comments are right on the mark concerning the awful title of Daniel P. Tucker's article = "8 US Soldiers Charged in Death of Infantryman From Chinatown." Bad title for sad news about the a soldier from NYC.

Dec. 21 2011 03:04 PM

I think, I hope, that the reference to Chinatown is meant to indicate that was a local, one of our own. (Presumably this is Manhattan C-town, but really, even that is biased.)

Dec. 21 2011 12:43 PM
K Yau

Chinatown infantryman found dead?

Ironic that WNYC would put "Chinatown infantryman" in its article when "[s]ome advocates for Chen claim he was targeted and abused because he was Asian-American."

How about respectfully addressing Mr. Chen as an Asian-American Amry Private?

Dec. 21 2011 12:25 PM
Satan from Hell

Oh, more war heroes! Thank you for your service. America eats it's young.

Dec. 21 2011 11:40 AM

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