Air Force extends deadline for Osan patrol investigation
Pedestrians walk through the Sinjang shopping area, located just outside Osan Air Base. Members of a U.S. town patrol handcuffed several South Korean civilians there during an altercation last month over an illegally parked car. The military and South Korean police are conducting separate investigations into the matter.
SEOUL — The U.S. military’s investigation into a high-profile altercation outside Osan Air Base that raised questions about the rules for American patrols has been extended beyond the original one-month target.
The 7th Air Force said last month that the investigation would begin July 9 and be completed within 30 days. But on Friday, several days after the self-imposed deadline, spokeswoman Maj. Richelle Dowdell said the probe will be completed “soon” but would not give a specific date.
“Sometimes it just takes a little longer than we expected it to,” she said. “We’re taking this matter very seriously.”
The commanders of U.S. Forces Korea and the 7th Air Force issued apologies shortly after the July 5 incident, and five airmen have been suspended from their duties pending the investigation’s outcome. U.S. town patrols across the peninsula have been banned from carrying guns in the wake of the politically sensitive confrontation in Pyeongtaek, which was recorded by passersby and aired on South Korean television.
According to South Korean police, a U.S. town patrol handcuffed three South Korean men in a popular pedestrian shopping district near Osan following a dispute over an illegally parked car. The men were turned over South Korean police and do not face charges.
Air Force officials have said only two South Koreans were handcuffed.
A separate investigation by Pyeongtaek police is nearing completion, several officials at the department said on condition of anonymity.
Prosecutors are deciding whether charges should be filed against any of the Osan airmen, who have been interviewed by South Korean police. One South Korean official said Friday that police are waiting for a prosecution decision before releasing their investigation report.
Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this story.