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What happened to Danny Chen?

07-23-2012 14:18 BJT

By Jessica Stone, CCTV Washington Correspondent

CCTV has obtained court documents which, for the first time, spell out the circumstances U.S. Army investigators believe led to the death of Private Danny Chen, 19, a Chinese-American soldier serving in Afghanistan. The documents paint a picture of uncontrolled, unsupervised discipline, unlawful use of alcohol, and an attempted cover-up. Chen's superiors allegedly did not create a safe or accountable environment for their soldiers and knowingly allowed him to be subjected to racial slurs and hazing, sometimes participating themselves.

Eight U.S. service members are now charged in connection with Chen's death, including one military officer and seven enlisted soldiers. The charges range in severity from dereliction of duty to negligent homicide. These documents only lay out the government's case against these men, not any information which can be used in their defense or to bring context to their alleged actions.

According to the charging documents, from August 23rd and October 3rd of 2011, Chen was repeatedly called racially disparaging terms including “dragon lady,” “Jackie Chen,” “chink,” and many others - not only by his immediate superiors, but by their superiors as well.

Chen's immediate superiors: Travis Carden, Specialist Thomas P. Curtis IV, Specialist Ryan Offutt along with their sergeants, Sergeant Travis Carden and Sergeant Adam Holcomb, not only engaged in racial slurs, according to documents, but physical abuse.

Both Holcomb and Curtis have a past history of hazing allegations with subordinates according to these same documents.

Documents show, the physical hazing went up the chain of command. On one occasion, Specialist Curtis IV is accused of forcing Chen to remain in a sitting position against a wall while he struck him in the thigh with his knee.

On another occasion, Sergeant Holcomb is accused of grabbing Chen by his wrist and dragging “him over a tent floor and a gravel path with his hands.”

And on a third occasion, Staff Sergeant Andrew J. VanBockel, a senior enlisted soldier, allegedly required Chen "to wear a green helmet, calling him the ‘assistant foreman,’ and requiring him to speak Chinese instead of English.”


On October 3, 2011, Specialists Offutt and Curtis IV allegedly threw rocks at Chen and kicked Chen in the side as part of "disciplinary action." It's unclear what Chen did to elicit this "disciplinary action." What is clear is that it went beyond extra pushups or the removal of privileges or pay. Chen was found later that day in a guard tower with "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound."

Curtis, Offutt and Holcomb are accused of grabbing Chen by the vest and dragging him. Their superior, SSG Andrew VanBockel, didn't try to stop them, according to charging documents; instead, he allegedly forced Chen to crawl on the ground with sandbags tied to his arms.

Documents show other superior officers also stood by. U.S. Army Sergeant Jeffrey T. Hurst and Staff Sergeant Blaine G. Dugas Jr. didn't stop the hazing.

When U.S. military investigators later asked Dugas what he knew, he allegedly denied that he had known about Chen's hazing.

The only officer in charge of C Company, First Lieutenant Daniel Schwartz, is accused of "failing" to prevent his subordinates from maltreating and engaging in racially abusive language. Military investigators allege he “negligently failed to ensure the physical wellbeing of his subordinate” by failing to supervise and monitor the corrective training imposed by subordinates."


First Lt. Daniel Schwartz: 6 specifications of dereliction of duty

Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas: violating a lawful general regulation, 3 specifications of dereliction of duty, making a false statement

Staff Sgt. Andrew VanBockel: negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, assault, two specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, 3 specifications of dereliction of duty, 2 specifications of violating a lawful general regulation

Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst: negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, maltreatment of a subordinate, 2 specifications of dereliction of duty, 2 specifications of violating a lawful general regulation

Sgt. Adam Holcomb: negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat, assault, 2 specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, dereliction of duty, 4 specifications of violating a lawful general regulation

Sgt. Travis Carden: reckless endangerment, assault, 2 specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, 2 specifications of violating a lawful general regulation

Spc. Thomas Curtis: negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, 4 specifications of assault, 6 specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, 2 specifications of violation of a lawful general regulation

Spc. Ryan Offutt: negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, 3 specifications of assault, 4 specifications of maltreatment of a subordinate, 2 specifications of violation of a lawful general regulation.

Editor:Sun Luying |Source: CNTV.CN

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