Shooting of U.S. sailor at Hiroshima bar district is investigated
Base residents say they are shocked that a U.S. sailor was shot early Sunday morning in a Hiroshima bar district.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric S. Heinze, an Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station Branch Medical Clinic preventive medicine corpsman, remained in stable condition at Hiroshima Prefectural Hospital on Monday afternoon after Japanese doctors removed a 10 mm-long bullet from his “left side waist area” during surgery Sunday.
“We were very surprised to hear that this incident happened, but of course random crime can happen anywhere,” clinic officer-in-charge Cmdr. Don Albia said. “This just heightens our need to be aware of our surroundings and use common sense at all times.”
Iwakuni base spokesman Capt. Stewart Upton said Naval Criminal Investigative Service personnel met with Japanese authorities Monday to coordinate investigation information.
Hiroshima police refused to comment Monday, but confirmed they have jurisdiction.
Lance Cpl. Israel Miranda, 23, assigned to Iwakuni’s Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, learned of the shooting Sunday.
“I don’t know all the details of what happened, but I was really shocked,” said Miranda, who has been stationed in Iwakuni since February.
Miranda said the shooting won’t change the way he views Japan or Hiroshima.
“It won’t change my mentality,” he said. “I mean, you can’t let something random like that shape the way you think.
“I guess my advice to people would be to just stay on guard, and watch your own behavior and the behavior of the others you are with.”
Base spokesman Cpl. David W. Boni said the Navy has not formerly addressed the base community about the shooting. Boni also said he is “unaware of any restrictions being discussed as far as traveling to Hiroshima is concerned.”
Heinze was walking with another sailor and a Marine in Hiroshima’s Nagarekawa District when a man opened fire from a moving vehicle, police said Sunday. After shooting, the man exited his car, pointed his weapon at Heinze’s friends, said something in Japanese and fled.
Police did not identify the victim’s friends.
The suspect is described as 5-foot-4, between the ages of 25 and 30. He has short hair, a tight perm and work beige pants, police said. The shooter was driving a “2- or 3-year-old black Nissan Cedric.”
Hiroshima, about 45 minutes by train from the base, is a popular destination for Iwakuni Marines and sailors. It’s also been the scene of previous Japanese gang violence targeting U.S. Marines.
In October 1998, Hiroshima police arrested six motorcycle gang members for being among a group of 50 — mostly teenagers — who surrounded and assaulted four Iwakuni Marines.
Hana Kusumoto contributed to this report.