Family members of Private Danny Chen, the soldier from Chinatown who died under mysterious circumstances in Afghanistan, gathered with officials Wednesday and spoke out after hearing news that eight people have been charged in connection with his death. NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
Even before Private Danny Chen was flown home for his funeral in Chinatown, there were questions about how he died.
Did the 19-year old shoot himself in a guard tower in Afghanistan as the Army suggested, or was it something more sinister?
Chen's family and supporters believe he was hazed and bullied based on what he said on Facebook, in emails and conversations with friends, and on a few pages of his journal released by the Army.
"We were told that he was dragged from his bed, we were told they made him do ‘bed crawl’ while they threw rocks at the back of his back,” said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
On Wednesday, the Army announced charges against eight people, including a first lieutenant and five sergeants. Those charges include involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide, assault, battery and reckless endangerment.
"Over two months over agonizing over the loss, it's of some comfort and relief to learn that the Army is taking this seriously," said Su Zhen Chen, Danny’s mother, via a translator.
Chen's mother wept during a news conference in Chinatown where advocates repeated their call for access to the soldier's autopsy report as well as his entire journal.
Officially, the Army has said Private Chen died of non-combat-related injuries. But it also confirmed an investigation is ongoing, not only into the circumstances leading up to his death but also into whether anyone else played a direct role.
“Danny died. Whether suicide or homicide, what they did to him caused his death,” said OuYang.
"Until all those involved are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, this is not over," said Representative Nydia Velazquez.
Chen's parents say they're meeting with representatives from the Army on January 4, and they're hoping to get more answers then.