Official: American’s knife used in stabbing
July 29, 2009
An official at the prosecutor’s office in Ath, Belgium, said Tuesday that it was an American who produced the knife used in the stabbing of a Belgian man last weekend in the city’s main square.
Four Americans were involved in the incident, which escalated from an argument over a car to a scuffle that turned ugly once the knife was introduced, said Frederique Barniche, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office in Ath.
The dispute, which occurred at about 12:20 a.m. on Saturday, involved two Belgian men and three Army officers — two captains and a second lieutenant — from nearby Caserne Daumerie in Chievres. The fourth American is a civilian.
“It’ll be months before the investigation is finished,” said Barniche, adding that there are conflicting accounts as to what happened. The investigation will determine whether anyone will face charges in the incident.
At least some of the American personnel involved in the fight are assigned to the 5th Signal Command, headquartered in Mannheim, Germany.
A spokesman for the command would not elaborate on the incident beyond a brief, three-sentence statement issued Monday.
“While the investigation is going on, there won’t be any more information released,” Kristopher Joseph, a command spokesman, said Tuesday.
One of the officers, a captain, allegedly brandished a switchblade after his eyeglasses were knocked to the ground during the fight and he couldn’t see well, Barniche said.
Fearing injury, the officer told authorities he drew the knife and swung it at one of the two Belgian men, cutting the man in the stomach, Barniche said.
However, the two Belgians maintain that the American who brandished the 3-inch-long blade was aggressive, not defensive, in his manner, Barniche said.
The Americans fled the scene on foot, but were caught a short time later, Barniche said.
They were later released.
One of the two Belgian men suffered a serious stab wound to the stomach, but his condition has improved since he had surgery, Barniche said.
“It was really severe, deep in the stomach,” Barniche said of the wound. “It was pretty long.”
The incident spiraled out of control after the Belgians accused the Americans of damaging a car parked in front of the restaurant L’Estaminet. The car belongs to the owner of the restaurant, one of the two Belgians at the center of the dispute. The Americans denied the accusation, words were exchanged and then things got physical.