No decision on probe of South Korean truck fatality
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. Forces Korea officials have made no decision about any upcoming criminal investigation involving a soldier who was driving when a U.S. military vehicle struck and killed a South Korean woman in June.
“No decision has been made on how to proceed with this case,” USFK spokesman David Oten said in a written statement Wednesday. “The soldier’s chain of command will carefully consider the facts relating to this case, including the reports by various Korean agencies, before rendering a decision.”
Few other details about the case — and about whether an investigation by military officials already may be in the works — were available Wednesday evening. Officials knowledgeable about the accident and any subsequent investigation were involved in a massive, two-week military exercise, which wraps up Friday.
The next step in the case involves a decision by Maj. Gen. George A. Higgins, the 2nd Infantry Division commander and the top officer in Pfc. Jeff Bryant’s chain of command, according to Oten.
On June 10, Bryant was on duty and driving a military vehicle when it struck and killed 51-year-old Kim Myung-ja in Dongducheon, near Camp Casey. Korean police led a joint investigation with U.S. military police officers directly after the accident, Oten said.
Korean police said Kim was jaywalking when the accident happened. They forwarded charges of “duty-related accidental homicide” to the Uijeongbu city prosecutor’s office in late June.
According to the status of forces agreement between the two countries, the United States retains jurisdiction over possible crimes that occur when a U.S. servicemember is on duty. Korean prosecutors requested the United States waive that jurisdiction, a request that was rejected on Tuesday. Bryant remains on active duty, according to U.S. officials.
The military justice system gives commanders a large role in investigating and deciding whether to prosecute potential crimes by servicemembers, according to the U.S. Marine Corps judge advocate general’s Web site. All branches of the U.S. military follow the same justice system, the Uniform Military Code of Justice.