Sasebo sailors held in theft, grounding of fishing boat
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two USS Fort McHenry sailors remained in Japanese police custody Tuesday afternoon as suspects in the theft of a local fishing boat.
Local police said the two were arrested early Monday morning after being discovered drunk inside the boat, which they had run aground.
A Nagasaki Prefectural Police spokesman said the jailed sailors are Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Montayne Dutcher, 21, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon James Kelley, 20.
Lt. Jereal Dorsey, an Amphibious Group 1 spokesman, confirmed the arrest but said he wouldn’t verify the sailors’ names until charges are filed.
The fishing boat — with the key in the ignition — was moored in Sasebo’s Kashimae area when the sailors allegedly embarked on a joyride for about 330 yards before running aground. The police spokesman said the $142,000 boat belongs to a local seafood company.
An employee heard the engine start, an Ainoura police spokesman added, and contacted the company president, whose wife called police.
“The extent of damage [to the boat] is currently unknown,” Dorsey said.
The sailors admitted to the theft, the police spokesman said, and the case is being sent to the Nagasaki Prefecture Public Prosecutor’s Office.
After two cases earlier this year in which U.S. servicemembers attacked Japanese women in Sasebo City, Capt. Michael James, the base commander, assembled about 350 sailors Feb. 6 for the “Personal Behavior and Responsibility Program,” a general military training event designed to reinforce the message that off-base crime is unacceptable.
Behavior insensitive to Japanese culture and criminal acts by servicemembers strain longtime efforts to build a good relationship with the local community and government, James told the sailors.
The shore command discussed but dismissed the idea of instituting a curfew that would restrict sailors to the installation or their off-base quarters at night, Command Master Chief Petty Officer William Lowman told the group at the training event.
Base spokesman Charles T. Howard said James was unavailable for comment Tuesday but added that “the positive relationship between the city and the base is one of Capt. James’ highest priorities. SOFA-sponsored personnel are expected to represent themselves as positive ambassadors of the Navy and the nation.”
“Respectful, courteous and law-abiding behavior can only have a positive impact on our relationship,” Howard said.
When base personnel don’t meet those standards, or run afoul of the law, Howard said, “they will be held fully accountable for their actions through counseling, or more severe measures.”
The command is not currently considering a curfew, he added.
The only restriction in effect for Sasebo personnel is a 30-day off-limits order implemented April 7 for the Tenjin District in Fukuoka between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. The restriction was issued after a gang of 20 to 30 Japanese males allegedly attacked seven servicemembers from Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station on April 4.
Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.