Japanese police recommend charges for Marine suspected of crashing stolen car
Stars and Stripes January 31, 2023
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Police in Iwakuni city on Monday recommended Japanese prosecutors charge a Marine there with drunken driving, theft and other offenses stemming from an incident in December, a police spokesman said Tuesday.
Police allege the unnamed 20-year-old man broke into a local dealership, stole a car and crashed it into another vehicle, leaving its occupants with minor injuries, the spokesman said by phone. Government spokespeople in Japan are often required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.
Police identified the accused only as a 20-year-old male, but Iwakuni city has said a Marine working at the base was suspected in the incident.
A spokesman for MCAS Iwakuni, near Hiroshima, declined to identify the Marine unless he’s indicted.
“We can confirm that a servicemember is accused of various violations of Japanese law,” Maj. Gerard Farao told Stars and Stripes by email Tuesday. “We, unfortunately, cannot share additional information while the Japanese legal process is ongoing.”
Police say the Marine broke into the dealership while intoxicated around 7:14 a.m. Dec. 3, drove away in a car worth about $41,000, and rear-ended another vehicle at an intersection in Asahi machi. The other driver and a passenger suffered minor injuries, including a sprained neck, the police spokesman said.
The Marine left the accident scene without reporting it to police, according to the spokesman.
The Marine spent nearly two hours with the owner of the stolen car on Thursday, the local Chugoku newspaper reported the next day. In addition to apologizing, he promised to pay for any damages, the report said.
“The servicemember and his command are fully committed to cooperating with Japanese authorities,” Farao said.
Police referred the Marine to the Yamaguchi District Prosecutors Office in Iwakuni and recommended charges of intrusion upon a structure, theft, negligent driving resulting in injuries, drinking and driving and failing to report the accident, the police spokesman said.
Police also recommended the Marine be “severely punished,” the spokesman said.
“We take all criminal allegations seriously and will evaluate further appropriate actions after all Japanese legal proceedings have concluded,” Farao said. “We understand that this case is of significant interest to our Japanese hosts and neighbors, we will make every effort within our legal limits to keep the public informed as soon as information becomes releasable, which is after the formal indictment of the servicemember by the Japanese authorities."