US Soldiers Charged in Racially Motivated Shooting of Asian GI

Eight U.S. soldiers have been charged with the October shooting death of Private Danny Chen.

In what was initially thought to be a suicide, Chen, who was Asian-American, was found shot dead in a guard tower in Afghanistan.

A military investigation later discovered that Chen, originally from New York City’s Chinatown, had suffered numerous racially motivated verbal and physical attacks before the Oct. 3 discovery of the 19-year-old Private with a gunshot wound below the chin.

The military released an official statement disclosing the names of the eight soldiers charged on Wednesday in connection with Chen’s death.

First 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, all of C Co., 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were all indicted.

The charges for the eight men include maltreatment, dereliction of duty, making a false official statement, assault consummated by battery, and involuntary manslaughter.

Hundreds of supporters, guided by community leaders, held a vigil for Chen last Thursday. According to MSNBC, community leaders at the vigil said they had a recent meeting at the Pentagon to discuss the maltreatment of Asian soldiers, asking that commanding officers face consequences.

Chen’s family attended the vigil and read aloud some of the letters the tormented soldier had written them.

“Feb. 27, 2011: Since I am the only Chinese person here, everyone knows me by Chen,” Chen’s cousin Banny Chen read. “They ask if I'm from China a few times a day... They also call out my name Chen in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason. People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time. I'm running out of jokes to come back at them.”

Chen's case is not an isolated one. According to the OCA, a national civil rights organization serving Asian Pacific Americans, Chen’s death is just one of several recent incidents of alleged military hazing.

Whether the eight soldiers are accused of killing Chen or if officials are alleging that their abuse caused the Private to take his own life is still unclear.