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Final arguments heard in fatal Okinawa hit-and-run

NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese prosecutor Friday asked for a four-year prison sentence for an Army sergeant accused of killing an Okinawa man last year in a hit-and-run accident.

Staff Sgt. Clyde Gunn showed no emotion as prosecutor Kenichi Abe made his final arguments in Naha Distirct Court, claiming that Gunn knew he struck the victim, Masakazu Hokama, 66, on a narrow farm road just before dawn Nov. 7.

“There was a great impact, reasonably indicating he had struck a human being,” Abe said. “Yet, he failed to render aid and drove away.”

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Gunn’s attorney, Toshimitsu Takaesu, claimed the solider was innocent, arguing that “no reasonable evidence” had been submitted during the trial to prove Gunn knew he struck a pedestrian. He also argued that the victim placed himself in danger by not wearing reflective clothing while walking the dark road.

The trial judge is to render a verdict Oct. 15.

Gunn, 27, a combat medic from Ocean Springs, Miss., was indicted Jan. 7 and was held in the Naha Detention Center until his release on 5 million yen bail (about $53,240) on April 7. Since then, he has been on restriction by his parent unit, the 1st Special Forces Group, at Torii Station.

At a hearing in February, Gunn pleaded not guilty to charges of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. In a statement made at the time, he admitted his car struck something as he drove along the unlit road in the village of Yomitan, but said he found no victim after he stopped his car and looked around.

The body of Hokama, who had been out for his usual early morning walk, was discovered in bushes by the side of the road about 12 hours later. An autopsy showed he died of a broken neck.

Gunn was later identified as a suspect when the car he had been driving was spotted at an auto repair shop with a damaged front end and cracked windshield.

okibureau@pstripes.osd.mil

 

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