American with loaded gun in luggage arrested at airport en route to new job at Okinawa base, police say
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND AYA ICHIHASHI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 24, 2019
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A Seattle man flying to Okinawa for a new job as a civilian firefighter at White Beach Naval Facility was arrested after a loaded firearm was found in his bag at Narita International Airport, Japanese police said.
Michael Edward Applegate, 43, was arrested shortly after the weapon was discovered at about 5:50 p.m. Monday as he checked his luggage at Terminal 1 for a connecting flight to Okinawa, according to a Narita International Airport Police spokesman. The gun was described only as an “automatic.”
It is customary in Japan for spokespeople to sometimes decline to provide their names to reporters. Narita is in Chiba prefecture, 27 miles southeast of central Tokyo.
Applegate told police he didn’t know the firearm was in his suitcase and that it must have been packed accidentally in the moving process, the spokesman said. Police also confiscated 28 rounds of ammunition.
Applegate was expected to be referred to the Chiba District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Wednesday for violating Japan’s swords and firearms control law, the police spokesman said.
If convicted, he faces three to 20 years in prison, a spokesman from the prosecutor’s office said.
“The Navy holds its personnel to high standards and takes any allegation of criminal behavior by its personnel seriously,” Navy Region Japan spokesman Marshall Smith wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes on Wednesday evening.
Police originally reported that Applegate was heading to a job at Kadena Air Base, which serves as Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa’s headquarters.