Silence on intruder frustrates Camp Foster couple
Stars and Stripes October 6, 2005
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Early one Friday morning, a man entered Evelyn Bowling’s Kishaba Terrace home through an unlocked front door, threatened to harm her and left a trail of blood throughout her house.
More than a month later, she said, she still wonders who he was and why the man, reportedly a U.S. civilian, never was charged with a crime.
She also wonders why Marine Corps officials told her family just to forget about the whole thing.
“I am terrified this can happen again,” Bowling said during a recent interview in her home with her husband, Steve, a Marine Corps master sergeant assigned to Camp Foster.
“Now I am afraid and angry,” she said. “I’m also upset that someone who can come into my house in the middle of the night and scare the hell out of me has more rights than I do, apparently.”
The Bowlings did not want their pictures taken. “We don’t know if this man is still on Okinawa or if he might go berserk again and come looking for us,” Evelyn Bowling said. “We don’t know if he remembers where we live. But if our picture appears in the paper complaining about him, what then?”
Neighbors who responded to Bowling’s screams restrained the intruder in her yard. Witnesses described him as a man in his late 20s or early 30s, unarmed and bleeding from the head. He was hauled away by military police and admitted to the U.S. Naval Hospital for treatment, according to Marine Corps officials. He was released later that weekend.
Home — but not aloneEvelyn Bowling’s story began when her husband was deployed. She was up late Sept. 2 answering e-mails in her den when a light suddenly snapped on in her adjacent dining room. She called out and was answered by a gruff man’s voice demanding to know why she was in his house.
“I screamed,” she said. “I demanded he leave, and he yelled back, ‘If you don’t get out of my house I will shoot you.’”
After a struggle to keep him out of the den, she ran out a back door. Her 12-year-old son, awakened by her screams, climbed out of his bedroom window to safety.
Bowling said she is stunned by the attitude of military investigators. “I would have felt much better had someone explained to me that this man had a medical problem, and he was sorry for what happened and had left the island,” she said. “But their whole attitude was like they were more interested in protecting him.”
“Everyone keeps telling me to forget about it,” Steve Bowling said. The master sergeant was en route to Okinawa from South Korea, where he’d been on temporary duty, when the incident occurred. “But I want to know what happened to this guy. Did he get treatment? Is he still on the island? Is he still a threat? I want to see the report on the investigation.”
He said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request but was told the incident remained under investigation and to file a new request when it is done.
“But no one said they’d call me when it’s complete,” he said. He said he would not drop the matter.
“I want to know I was treated the same [as if] this had happened at a general’s house, or some out-of-his-mind intruder had threatened a colonel’s wife,” said Bowling, a 19-year Marine veteran. “I don’t think this would have been handled the same way.
“Some closure on this would be nice,” he said. “I’d like to know he’s left the island and will never set foot in this neighborhood again. But I was told they couldn’t even tell me that.”
Privacy vs. peace of mindMarine Corps public affairs officials verified that the trespassing incident took place.
They were asked why the intruder was released, whether the Bowlings had been counseled to drop the issue and if so, why.
The official response was: “The Marine Corps takes public safety very seriously and investigates accidents and incidents appropriately and thoroughly. The Provost Marshal’s Office followed strict standard operating procedures during this incident from the time of the call to the time of release.”
Citing privacy issues, the Marine Corps officials also refused to disclose the man’s name, his medical condition and what happened to him after he was released from the hospital. Citing patient confidentiality issues, hospital officials declined to discuss the incident.
Evelyn Bowling and her neighbor, Marvin Rydberg, a civilian married to a Marine, said they learned from questions asked of the intruder by military police before he was taken away that he was a civilian from Hawaii. He’d arrived on Okinawa the day before to visit a friend who is a Department of Defense contractor staying at the Westpac Inn, also in Camp Foster’s Kishaba area, they said.
Steve Bowling said an investigator told him no charges were filed because of the complicated jurisdictional issue regarding American civilians charged with crimes on U.S. bases in Japan.
“He explained to me that it was a jurisdictional issue and that if they were to charge him with something they’d have to take him to Guam because that’s the only place where there’s a U.S. magistrate,” Bowling said. “So they decided not to pursue it because it wasn’t really that serious.”
In response to the jurisdictional issue, a Marine Corps spokesman wrote: “Under existing international agreements, crimes committed in Okinawa, whether on or off base, are subject to Japanese law. Military authorities may exercise legal jurisdiction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice only for servicemembers; typically, civilians committing offenses aboard base are subject to Japanese jurisdiction.
“However, while civilians are not subject to the UCMJ, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act extends U.S. federal jurisdiction to civilians accompanying the U.S. Forces overseas, but it applies in very limited circumstances and only when the Japanese decline jurisdiction over the offense.”
A Japanese police spokesman said Japanese police received no report concerning the incident. Requests to speak to military police and the base inspector’s office concerning the incident were declined.