Soldier charged with vehicular manslaughter in death of Okinawan
NAHA, Okinawa — A U.S. soldier was taken into Japanese custody Thursday after being charged with vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 66-year-old Okinawan.
Sgt. Clyde A. Gunn, 27, is accused of hitting Masakazu Hokama at about 5:50 a.m. Nov. 7 while "driving inattentively" on a Yomitan village road at a speed of about 34 miles per hour, according to Toru Suzuki, deputy chief prosecutor at Naha District Prosecutor’s Office.
Hokama sustained head injuries and died of a broken neck after smashing against the hood and windshield and landing on a roadside, according to the indictment. Hokama’s body was found at about 5:15 p.m. that day by a passer-by, according to police reports.
Japanese authorities said they had not yet decided whether to treat the case as a hit-and-run.
Toshimitsu Takaesu, Gunn’s defense attorney, said Thursday during a telephone interview with Stars and Stripes that he advised his client to remain silent during future questioning unless it was videotaped or Gunn was allowed to have military legal representatives present. Gunn has refused to be questioned after three initial sessions, claiming a statement he made to police in the week after the accident was mistranslated.
Takaesu said that his client told him that he knew he hit something while driving home to his apartment in Yomitan, and he stopped and looked around but did not see a body.
Army officials said Thursday that they are working closely with Japanese authorities.
"We’ve done everything possible to expedite the transfer of custody," said spokesman Charles Steitz. "The U.S. will continue to work closely with the Japanese authorities in the joint investigation of the unfortunate and tragic accident."
Gunn had been in military custody since he was identified as the driver of the car involved in the incident. In accordance with the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, Gunn was moved to Naha Detention Center, where he will await trial. No date has been set.