Military investigation into Osan incident complete, awaiting SK results
Stars and Stripes October 16, 2012
SEOUL — The U.S. military has completed its investigation into a July 5 incident outside Osan Air Base that involved at least five airmen handcuffing South Korean nationals, but the report won’t be released until South Korea completes its own probe, which could take another two to three months.
The Osan airmen, part of a security forces detail on a routine town patrol, handcuffed at least two South Korean men following a dispute over an illegally parked car in the popular Sinjang shopping area.
Footage of the incident was widely aired in the country, sparking anger.
South Korean officials have said three men were handcuffed and seven airmen were involved. The men were later released to South Korean police and were not charged.
U.S. military officials quickly apologized for the incident.
The military and South Korean police have conducted separate investigations. Pyeongtaek police chief Park Sang Yung has recommended the airmen be indicted for illegal arrest.
The case has been forwarded to the Suwon District prosecutor’s office for a decision on whether to prosecute.
Maj. Richelle Dowdell, 7th Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email that “finalization of the report is pending the conclusion of the Korean investigation. This synchronization will ensure all available information is considered.”
Five airmen have been suspended from town patrol duties during the investigation, but Dowdell called that a standard administration action and said it is not punitive. The airmen are allowed to leave South Korea with the prosecutor’s approval, she said.
A spokesman for the Pyeongtaek branch of the Suwon District prosecutor’s office said it typically takes three to four months to evaluate a case, and this one has been examined for only a month. He described the case as “difficult” but said officials will decide whether to press charges based on legalities, not public opinion.
U.S. Forces Korea has banned its town patrols from carrying guns because of the Osan incident.