By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel received his sentence for his role in the suicide of Pvt. Danny Chen on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at Fort Bragg. He was sentenced to two reductions in rank, an official reprimand, and 60 days of hard labor.
However, he will only serve 15 days after considering the 45 days he has already served during his court martial.
The jury found him guilty of hazing, three specifications of dereliction of duty, and two specifications of maltreatment. Van Bockel was acquitted of two additional specifications of maltreatment. He was not convicted of contributing to Chen’s death, however. That charge was dropped at the beginning of the court martial two weeks ago.
Danny Chen was found dead on Oct. 3, 2011, in a guardhouse in Afghanistan with what the army said seemed like a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The case has raised questions about the Army’s treatment of Asian Americans.
Chen was reportedly called racial slurs, forced to speak Chinese to fellow soldiers, dragged and forced to crawl over rocks, and do pushups with a mouth full of water.
Van Bockel testified that Chen was undergoing “corrective training” to become a better soldier.
The soldiers charged in connection with the death were Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, 25, of Maryland; Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, 35, of Port Arthur, Texas; Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, 26, of Aberdeen, S.D.; Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, 29, of Youngstown, Ohio; Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, 26, of Brooklyn, Iowa; Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, 25, of Hendersonville, Tenn.; Spc. Ryan J. Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pa.; and Sgt. Travis F. Carden, 24, of Fowler, Ind.
VanBockel, Holcomb, Hurst, Curtis, and Offutt were charged with the most serious offenses, including involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide, and assault and battery.
Schwartz, the only officer among the accused, was charged with dereliction of duty.
Van Bockel was the sergeant of Chen’s squad and is the seventh of eight soldiers to have been sentenced.
At the hearing, Van Bockel said that Chen was weaker than other soldiers and would regularly forget his supplies and fall asleep during guard duty.
Four of the six other soldiers who were punished were convicted by court-martial. The two others reached plea agreements with the persecution. (end)