Final appeal of ex-soldier convicted in BB gun shooting dismissed
By ASHLEY ROWLAND AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 2014
SEOUL — South Korea’s highest court on Thursday dismissed the final appeal of a former U.S. soldier convicted of firing a BB gun at pedestrians and hitting a South Korean police officer with his car.
The Supreme Court’s decision means that Christian Lopez-Morales will serve the entirety of his three-year sentence, according to a court spokesperson. The former staff sergeant was convicted, along with Pfc. Wendy Fuentes, in Seoul Central District Court last September for firing BBs at a crosswalk in the crowded Itaewon entertainment district. They drove away, triggering a high-speed chase that led to a third soldier being shot in the chest by a South Korean policeman.
Anyone convicted of a crime at the district court level in South Korea automatically has the right to two appeals.
The March 2013 incident sparked considerable attention in South Korea and prompted public calls for the military to do more to prevent troop misbehavior.
Lopez-Morales — formerly Fuentes’ superior — also pleaded guilty in a general court-martial in May to military charges of dereliction of duty, adultery, four specifications of making a false official statement and three specifications of failure to obey an order or regulation, according to the Eighth Army. He was sentenced to eight months’ confinement, demoted to E-1 and given a dishonorable discharge.
Fuentes was assessed the maximum fine under South Korean law, 5 million won (about $4,600), at an earlier court proceeding. She was reduced in rank from E-4 to E-3 and fined a month’s pay at a court-martial.
Fake weapons, including guns, are sold at a sidewalk vending stall in Itaewon just steps away from the Hamilton Hotel, where two U.S. soldiers allegedly shot BB guns at passersby on March 2, 2013. Two of the soldiers appeared in Seoul Central District Court on June 4, 2013.
ASHLEY ROWLAND/STARS AND STRIPES