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Marine held in alleged Okinawa sexual assault

NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa police arrested a U.S. Marine early Wednesday on suspicion of forcing his way into an Okinawa woman’s home and sexually attacking her.

According to Okinawa police spokesman Motoki Haneji, Marine Sgt. Phillip Edward Sawyerr, 28, was apprehended on a street in Naha at 4:07 a.m. He faces possible charges of illegal entry and indecent sexual assault.

Haneji said Sawyerr forced his way into the woman’s second floor apartment as she unlocked her door. He grabbed her from behind, clamped his hand over her mouth and tried to force her to the ground, the officer said.

However the woman, in her 20s, resisted, keeping the door open with her body and screaming loudly, Haneji said. A neighbor heard her screams and called police. Haneji said officers arrived at the apartment complex, near a bar district, within three minutes and saw Sawyerr jump from the second floor balcony to the ground, losing his shoes in the process. He was apprehended after a short chase.

Haneji said the woman, a sales representative for a local company, did not know Sawyerr. She did not complain of any injury, he said

Sawyerr, who told police he was based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni near Hiroshima, is being held at the prefectural police station in Naha.

Haneji said Sawyerr denied that he attacked the woman.

Marine officials on Okinawa confirmed that a Marine was arrested by police in Naha early Wednesday but provided no further details.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions on Okinawa regarding the presence of U.S. bases. Base opponents often cite crimes committed by U.S. servicemen as a major reasons they are pushing for a reduction in what they term “Okinawa’s burden” of hosting about half the 47,000 U.S. troops based in Japan.

okibureau@pstripes.osd.mil

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