8 U.S. Army Soldiers Charged in Racial Bullying Suicide Death of 19-Year-Old Private Danny Chen
Eight U.S. Army personnel have been charged in connection with the death of a 19-year-old private who apparently killed himself after being racially bullied by his fellow soldiers.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Private Danny Chen of New York City was found dead in a guard tower at an Afghanistan base from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” in October. The young soldier had told relatives back in New York about repeated ethnic taunts and physical abuse he suffered while serving in Afghanistan.
“They ask me if I’m from China a few times a day,” he wrote to them. “They also called out my name ‘Chen’ in a goat-like voice sometimes for no reason,” the message also said. “I’m running out of jokes to respond back to them,” he added.
Chen’s relatives also claim he soldiers threw rocks at him and forced him to hold liquid in his mouth while he was hung upside down.
But Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization of Chinese Americans told the Times that there were no signs that Chen was suicidal and that he was “upbeat” and “laughing” the week before his death.
OuYang and the Chen family do not accept the Army’s version of events.
“We are not convinced,” OuYang told the Times. “Danny Chen died after this mistreatment. Whether it was suicide or homicide, what they did to him caused his death,” she added.
The eight soldiers from the 1st Stryker Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division face charges including negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. The Times reports that they are being held at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon is calling Chen’s death a “tragic incident,” although Capt. John Kirby has ruled out hazing.
“We treat each other with dignity and respect. That’s what this uniform requires,” Kirby is quoted in the Times. “And when we don’t, there is a justice system in place to deal with it. And that’s what we’re seeing here in the case of Pvt. Chen.”
The Times reports that this is the second case of an Asian-American soldier being allegedly bullied to death this year. In August, three Marines were charged with mistreating Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who killed himself because of the abuse.
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