Sailor accused of killing taxi driver is handed over to Japanese authorities
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A USS Cowpens sailor was handed over to Japanese authorities Thursday in connection with the killing of a 61-year-old taxi driver.
Seaman Olatunbosun Ogbogu, 22, will likely be charged with robbery-murder, a Japanese police spokesman said Thursday.
The spokesman said Ogbogu has admitted to stabbing Masaaki Takahashi with a kitchen knife around 9:19 p.m. on March 19 in a quiet alley in Yokosuka’s Shioiri neighborhood.
Takahashi, a driver with the Shinagawa-based ANZEN, bled to death in his cab, according to police reports.
Ogbogu is suspected of trying to avoid paying a 19,560-yen (about $200) cab fare, the report said. The police said they planned to send the case to the Yokohama District Public Prosecutors Office on Saturday, the spokesman said.
U.S. Navy officials “strongly condemned” the killing Thursday and several high-ranking officials, including Commander Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. James D. Kelly, 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Doug Crowder, Maj. Gen. James Flock and Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer expressed their regrets at Yokosuka’s city hall, the Kanagawa Prefectural Office and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Schieffer called the incident a “terrible stain on the whole community here.”
Takahashi’s “brutal murder is a shock and outrage to all those who believe in a civilized society,” he said in an embassy statement.
Kelly promised officials maximum efforts would be made to prevent incidents like this.
“You have my solemn promise that a maximum and continuing effort will be made to prevent the reoccurrence of such a heinous crime in Yokosuka,” Kelly told Yokosuka Mayor Ryoichi Kabaya and Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa on Thursday.
The killing comes in the wake of several alleged crimes involving U.S. servicemembers throughout Japan, including two alleged rapes on Okinawa.
Tightened liberty restrictions are in place on several U.S. bases, including Yokosuka, where a mandatory curfew and a ban on public alcohol consumption are in place until at least Monday.
“I recognize the efforts taken under Adm. Kelly to prevent crimes and accidents, but the recurrence of an incident like this shakes the confidence that the people have in U.S. forces in Japan,” Matsuzawa told the U.S. officials.
The city has repeatedly called for the military to take strong preventative measures, Kabaya said.
“I cannot help feeling strong anger and extreme regret that such an incident was caused again by a U.S. military member even though we have repeatedly requested for an enforcement of official discipline and for preventative measures to be taken,” Kabaya said in a prepared statement.
In 2006, a USS Kitty Hawk sailor was convicted of beating a 56-year-old Yokosuka woman to death and stealing her money.
In 2007, a Navy-employed U.S. civilian was convicted of accidentally killing a Japanese man outside a bar near the base’s main gate.
Ogbogu, a citizen of Nigeria, had been declared a deserter on March 10 and had been missing from his guided-missile cruiser since March 1, according to Navy officials.
Ogbogu turned himself in to Naval Criminal Investigative Services agents in Tokyo on March 22 and had since been held in U.S. military custody on the desertion charge.
Thursday’s handover of Ogbogu to Japanese officials — before any official charges are brought — was made possible by changes in the status of forces agreement regarding custody and criminal jurisdiction in 1995 and 2004, according to a Navy release.
The release said the cooperation between the Navy and the Japanese authorities was excellent and said the two sides will continue to coordinate closely through the remainder of the investigation.