Japanese police say a 76-year-old woman was punched several times in the face by a lance corporal assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni near Hiroshima.

Japanese police say a 76-year-old woman was punched several times in the face by a lance corporal assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni near Hiroshima. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Japanese police have arrested a Marine lance corporal on suspicion of punching an elderly Japanese woman in the face, an Iwakuni police spokesman said Monday.

Lance Cpl. Manuel Gomez, 20, was detained at 4:16 a.m. Saturday in Iwakuni city on suspicion of bodily injury, the spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone. Some government officials in Japan may only speak to the media on condition of anonymity.

Gomez, a motor vehicle operator with Wing Support Squadron 171, was still in Japanese police custody Monday, according to an email that day from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing spokesman Maj. Roberto Martins.

“We are aware of the incident and are fully cooperating with the local authorities in their investigation,” he said.

Iwakuni police allege Gomez punched the 76-year-old woman several times in the face with his right hand around 4 a.m. on a street in the Marifu area, the spokesman said. The woman’s face was bruised, and she’ll need two weeks of treatment, he added.

Officers arrived and arrested Gomez at the scene after a passerby called to report the incident, according to the police spokesman.

He said the Marine and the woman did not know each other, and that the Marine had been drinking.

Gomez denies the allegation, the spokesman said. Police are investigating the cause of the incident, he added.

The case was sent to the prosecutor’s office in Iwakuni on Sunday, according to the spokesman.

The base commander, Col. Richard M. Rusnok Jr., did not restrict liberty after Gomez’s arrest; however, unit commanders — lieutenant colonels and above — may restrict liberty in their organizations, consistent with base regulations, to maintain readiness, safeguard the force and protect relations between the United States and Japan, Martins said.

“There are currently no installation-wide liberty restrictions enacted,” he said.

The Marine Corps takes all misconduct allegations seriously, Martins said.

“The alleged actions go against our values, and we expect our service members to be upstanding members of the community,” he said.

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Jonathan Snyder is a reporter at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Most of his career was spent as an aerial combat photojournalist with the 3rd Combat Camera Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He is also a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program and Eddie Adams Workshop alumnus.
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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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