Teens could be charged in two Okinawa taxi robberies
April 6, 2008
OKINAWA CITY — Two U.S. teenagers being held by Okinawa police for allegedly stealing money from a cab driver the evening of March 16 also could face charges for assaulting and robbing another cabbie earlier that day.
And warrants have been issued for two 19-year-olds suspected of being involved in the first robbery, an Okinawa police spokesman said Friday afternoon.
A fifth American, a 21-year-old airman stationed at Kadena Air Base also is being questioned in that case, he said.
The detained teenagers’ names were not released because they are considered minors under Japanese law. The airman was not named because he has not been charged.
Okinawa prefectural police Friday said the two teens now in custody, a 16-year-old high school student who is the stepson of an Air Force servicemember and a 15-year-old high school dropout who is the son of a Marine, admitted to involvement in both incidents.
The 16-year-old, who lives in an off-base home in Okinawa City, was apprehended in the neighborhood at 11:45 p.m. March 16 by officers responding to a call from a 51-year-old cab driver. The driver reported two young customers ran away with a coin box containing about 5,400 yen (about $54) when they left his cab at 10:45 p.m. near Kadena’s Gate Five.
The driver identified the 16-year-old as one of the two passengers, and an investigation by Okinawa police and military police led to the arrest of the 15-year-old, who was listed as a runaway.
According to Okinawa police, his family also lives off base.
The 15-year-old Marine dependent has been in Okinawa police custody since March 18, Marine spokesman Master Sgt. Charles Albrecht said Friday.
On Friday, the police spokesman said the first two suspects being held in Okinawa City admitted to the earlier robbery, and the investigation led to the other three suspects.
In that incident, the 55-year-old driver said three foreigners speaking English took a cash box containing about 8,000 yen (about $80) after one of them struck him from behind and knocked him to the ground at 12:20 a.m. in a popular entertainment district near Kadena’s Gate Two.
Okinawa police believe there were actually five people involved in the first incident. The other teens were described as the son of an Air Force servicemember and the son of a soldier. Both lived on U.S. bases, the spokesman said.
18th Wing spokeswoman Keiko Toma confirmed that a 21-year-old airman is suspected of being involved.
Recommended charges will be forwarded to the Naha Public Prosecutors Office, which will make a decision on how to proceed, the police spokesman said.
The teenagers could be charged in a juvenile court or the cases could be referred to the Naha General District Court, where they would be tried as adults.
Albrecht and Toma said military authorities are “fully cooperating” with Japanese officials in the investigation.