Subscribe

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — An Air Force police officer sentenced to jail Thursday for taking a military handgun off base said it was the weapon’s fierce recoil that made him decide against killing himself with it.

Airman 1st Class Charles Tyrone Walker Jr., of Osan’s 51st Security Forces Squadron, was sentenced Thursday to 100 days in jail and reduction to E-1, the military’s lowest pay grade. The sentence came after he pleaded guilty to taking the 9 mm Beretta in January and firing it inside an apartment in Pyeongtaek.

"I had intent to harm myself," Walker told military judge Col. Mark L. Allred.

"I discharged the weapon to feel the recoil, to see if it was going to change my mind about whether I was going to commit suicide. And it did."

He’d wanted to see "whether I had the nerve to commit suicide."

In an agreement with prosecutors, Walker pleaded guilty to wrongful appropriation of a handgun belonging to the U.S. Air Force, carrying a concealed weapon, and willful discharge of a firearm under such circumstances as to endanger human life.

Walker checked out the weapon and two 15-round magazines from his unit armory because he’d been thinking of killing himself amid ongoing marital problems, he testified.

Those problems reached a breaking point when he learned his wife had used his myPay PIN to create a $500 allotment for her bank account, according to Thursday’s proceedings.

There were no injuries in the episode, which began around 10 p.m. Jan. 29 and touched off a South Korean police dragnet to find Walker. After a few tense hours, his unit’s crisis negotiation team persuaded him by phone to return to base and turn himself in.

Hours before he left base with the gun, he told a first sergeant about his wife’s action involving the allotment, Walker testified.

But he was dissatisfied with the first sergeant’s response, he testified.

That night, Walker went to his unit arms room and tricked the armorer into letting him check out the weapon by claiming falsely that he needed it because he’d been assigned extra duty.

In uniform and with the weapon hidden in a cargo pocket of his pants, he took a taxi from the base to nearby Songtan train station.

There, he phoned a fellow airman and said he was going to kill himself.

The airman met Walker at the station.

Walker phoned his wife and asked her to meet him and the other airman; instead, she called her husband’s unit.

After drinking beer in a bar, the two airmen went to the apartment of Walker’s mother, a Korean citizen, who was not home.

Sometime around midnight, Walker fired one shot at a wall to gauge the weapon’s recoil, he testified.

The two men then got a room at a hotel, and while there, Walker gave up his gun to the airman.

The sergeant from his unit’s crisis negotiation team then told Walker what route to take back to base so that he’d avoid the numerous police roadblocks set up to snare him.

After turning himself in, Walker was searched, handcuffed and jailed.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up