Police recommend sexual assault charges against Iwakuni-based Marine
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawa police Thursday recommended that the prosecutor’s office file trespassing and sexual assault charges against Marine Sgt. Phillip Edward Sawyerr. Sawyerr, 28, who told police he was assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, near Hiroshima, remains in Japanese custody on suspicion he forced his way into a woman’s home in Naha just before 4 a.m. Wednesday and sexually assaulted her.
Meanwhile, Susumu Matayoshi, director general of the governor’s executive office, visited the Okinawa office of U.S. Forces Japan to file an official protest.
“Despite our repeated requests for the military over the years to take effective preventive measures, such an incident did occur again,” Matayoshi said during his visit, according to Tatsuo Oyakawa, chief of the prefectural government’s Military Affairs Office.
Crime committed by U.S. servicemembers has long been a reason why many Okinawan citizens and leaders have been seeking a greatly reduced presence of bases on the island.
Police apprehended Sawyerr near the victm’s home after a neighbor reported screams coming from a woman in a second-floor apartment, said Motoki Haneji, spokesman for Okinawa Prefectural Police.
Haneji said Sawyerr had fled when police arrived, jumping from the second floor and losing his shoes before a police officer grabbed him.
Details on Sawyerr’s unit and why he was on Okinawa were not available Thursday. Marine officials on Wednesday confirmed an arrest of a Marine in Naha but declined to provide further details.
Sawyerr continues to deny the allegations, Haneji said. Prosecutors have 21 days to either indict or release Sawyerr.