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OKINAWA CITY — A 19-year-old Marine assigned to Camp Hansen was in Okinawa police custody Thursday on suspicion of stealing a car from a parking lot near the base.

According to an Okinawa police report, an Okinawa police patrol stopped the Marine at 2:30 a.m. Thursday after he was spotted driving a car reported stolen earlier in the evening.

The private’s name was not released because he is considered a juvenile under Japanese law, officials said. He was stopped while driving near Kadena Air Base’s Gate Two. A police spokesman said the Marine was asked to come to the prefectural police station in Okinawa City, where he was questioned and subsequently arrested at 4:30 a.m.

He denied stealing the car, explaining that two friends, also Marines, had taken it. However, he admitted to taking turns driving the car, the police spokesman said.

The police spokesman said the owner of the compact car, a 21-year-old woman, reported the theft about 1 a.m.

The women reportedly told police that three Americans stole her purse, which contained her car keys, while they were in a bar in the town of Kin, next to Camp Hansen.

According to the spokesman, the woman said she chased after the men but lost track of them, then found her car had been taken from the parking lot.

When the private was stopped in Okinawa City, no one else was in the car, a police spokesman said.

The other two Marines the 19-year-old said took the car remained at large Thursday evening.

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