Zushi, a popular beach near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, is pictured on March 22, 2024.

Zushi, a popular beach near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, is pictured on March 22, 2024. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA, Japan — The U.S. sailor accused of slamming into a group of people two years ago at a popular Japanese beach remembers little of what happened, partly because he’d been drinking heavily that day, he testified Monday.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Krieger is on trial on four counts of bodily injury stemming from an incident in Zushi, a beach town near Yokosuka Naval Base, on July 9, 2022.

The most severely injured of the group were a 33-year-old man with multiple sprained vertebrae and a 58-year-old woman with a broken upper jaw, broken nasal bone and other facial injuries.

Krieger testified for nearly five hours in Yokohama District Court’s Yokosuka Branch. He said he remembered few significant details of the incident because he had consumed between 10 and 20 alcoholic drinks that day.

Krieger remembered “colliding with someone,” he told his defense attorneys, but not where that happened, who he ran into or why they collided. He recalled that he fell over and subsequently felt like someone was grabbing him and chasing him.

“It was like a dream, when a monster chases you, but you don’t know why,” he said.

The trial resumes June 17, when the defense will present a psychiatrist who examined Krieger as an expert witness.

He acknowledged that surveillance footage from that day shows him running into the group, stumbling and then continuing to run away.

Japanese authorities allege Krieger, a logistics specialist assigned to the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius, collided with three men and two women that day. He has pleaded not guilty.

Krieger is not in police custody, but is restricted to the naval base, he told prosecutors.

Krieger and his attorneys do not contest the facts in the case but say a previous brain injury and his intoxication that day left him unable to take responsibility for what happened.

Attorney Masahiko Goto, who represents the injured parties in a separate civil suit against the sailor, asked Krieger in court Monday how he felt about the victims’ fear that he’ll “attack them again.”

Krieger appeared surprised.

“What? I have no reason to attack these people,” he said. “If they have fear, they should be more courageous. It was a mistake.”

They “need to know that I’m not going after them,” he added.

Krieger testified that the day began with a trip to the beach with his wife, Rina Krieger, and their 2-year-old son. Rina Krieger eventually left for home with their son, leaving Daniel Krieger to relax on the beach, she testified April 25.

In 2015, Krieger suffered a brain hemorrhage after intervening in a fight at a train station in Yokosuka, he testified. After his recovery, he became increasingly irritable and forgetful, he said.

He also testified that pelvic floor dysfunction leads him to drink to alleviate constant discomfort.

Krieger admitted to lying to police about his level of intoxication.

He initially told investigators he was sober that day due to avoid more trouble with the Navy, he testified. He also instructed his wife to tell police the same thing.

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.
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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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