So, this Sgt. Lopez creature and his wife appeared before Yongsan police yesterday afternoon, where according to KBS, they admitted to most of the charges against them.
The other cretin, a one Pvt. Dixon, has yet to be questioned as he’s still in the hospital with a gun shot wound to the shoulder.
If it’s shown that they did fire BB guns at civilians, they could face additional charges.
KBS also notes the rising GI crime rate. In recent years, GIs have been responsible for over 300 crimes a year, of which only 6% result in indictments. Most are given non-prosecution dispositions, and because of this, GI crimes sometimes ignite anti-American feelings. KBS notes that SOFA rules make it difficult for Korean cops to secure GIs accused of crimes when they fail to arrest them in the act. The broadcaster also notes that many point to the light punishments handed out to GIs who commit crimes and poor measures to prevent recurrences as the reasons for continuing GI crimes, and the answer is to revise the SOFA.
OK, I’m going to be honest here. There are things both sides could do to keep crime down—the stricter pre-2008 nighttime curfew seemed to reduce crime rates, and judging from some of the crime reports I see, I wonder if USFK is doing enough to instill in its men and women a sense of respect for the locals. Come on guys, 300 crimes a year? Sure, a lot of it is small stuff (hence the non-prosecution dispositions), but even little shit adds up.
You’ll never reduce the crime rate to zero in a population of 25,000 with lots of young men, however. The poor, stupid and criminally psychotic will always be with us.
I’m also not convinced that strengthening SOFA will solve anything. Judging from the stories I’ve read over the years, it seems the cops and prosecutors aren’t especially keen to exercise the authority they’ve already got under SOFA—see the 2005 Uijeongbu Beer Bottle Maiming Case to see what I mean. In recent years, Korean prosecutors appear to be more aggressive in going after the serious stuff, but perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the KNP to go Rudy Giuliani on USFK and begin breaking balls over the petty shit, a.k.a. broken windows. If your indictment rate is just 6%, whose fault is that?
UPDATE: Congrats, USFK—you got yourselves an editorial in the Chosun Ilbo.
To sum up the important part, yes, we know that since 2002, USFK has been working hard to contain incidents, quickly apologizing every time a GI does something criminal. GIs are still committing over 300 crimes a year, however—just last month, six GIs sexually harassed a young Korean women on the Uijeongbu tram, after which the base commander visited Uijeongbu to apologize and pledge that incidents like this would not happen again.
Over the last five years, GIs have committed about 2,200 crimes, but in only four of these did the Korean cops get to detain the suspects while they investigated. Because of the SOFA, it’s almost impossible for Korean cops to get GI suspects delivered unless they catch them in the act.
Ye Olde Chosun called on USFK to actively cooperate with the police investigation and use the opportunity to craft a plan to fundamentally reduce the amount of mischief committed by its men. If this doesn’t happen, Koreans will inevitably call for revisions to the SOFA no matter how much the American and Korean authorities explain the meaning and necessity of the agreement.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Hani also ran an editorial on the incident. As expected, they note that because of the SOFA, the Korean side is unable to conduct proper investigations—even the 2001 revision merely allowed Korean cops to take possession of a suspect from the point of indictment instead after the trial… and for just 12 kinds of crimes at that. Anyway, the Hani’s tired of the constant apologies followed by slaps on the wrist.
My personal favorite editorial on the matter was courtesy the Dong-A Ilbo, which opened right away by noting that this incident was brought about because American GIs hold Korean cops in contempt—the GIs in question know full well if they’d pulled this stunt in the United States the cops would have shot to kill.
The Dong-A was also unhappy about USFK asking the Korean cops to delay their questioning of the driver because he’s on painkillers, which they regard as less-than-enthusiastic cooperation with the Korean cops. They probably offer the best advice out of all the papers—US military authorities need to beef up their training on off-base activities and instill a sense of respect for Korean law and the Korean authorities.
Now, I’m no USFK authority, but I’m doing what I can in a private capacity to bolster the American fighting man’s respect for Korean law:
Would the 미군 please stop 난동ing. Thank you for your cooperation.
— The Marmot’s Feed (@rjkoehler) March 4, 2013
UPDATE 2: I just dig the soundtrack:
One U.S. soldier admitted Monday that he and two colleagues shot a Korean civilian with a BB gun, hit a policeman with a car and ran away on a rampage in Itaewon on Saturday night, police said.
A second suspect identified by police by her first name “Wendy” appeared at the station at 6:00 p.m. Police said that they suspect the 21-year-old corporal shot the BB gun at a Korean citizen surnamed Ahn based on testimony by Ahn and other police officers who approached them.