The family of Private Danny Chen, a Chinatown native who killed himself after he was allegedly bullied in the U.S. Army, met with military officials Thursday who conceded that superiors knew about the situation but failed to report it. NY1’s Rebecca Spitz filed the following report.
There may never be closure for Private Danny Chen's family, but for now, there’s at least some validation.
On Wednesday, advocates for the 19-year-old found dead in Afghanistan met with officials from the U.S. Army who that conceded Chen was subjected to repeated mistreatment and abuse. He eventually took his own life.
"Almost immediately after he arrived, Danny was required to do exercises which quickly within a few days crossed over to abuse,” said Elizabeth OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
Army officials spent four hours with the Chen family and admitted he was forced to crawl with sandbags on his back and duck rocks thrown at him to resemble artillery fire.
He withstood racial slurs because he was Chinese American, and it didn't stop there:
“On September 27th, Danny was assaulted,” said OuYang. “A sergeant dragged him out of his bed over 15 meters of gravel to the shower trailer and told 'you broke the hot water pump.' He had bruises and cuts on his back.”
The Army admits Chen's platoon sergeant and platoon leader knew about that attack but did not report it.
"The mother says that you think after all these months, the pain would subside," said an interpreter for Chen’s mother, Su Zhen Chen.
With all the information they gave, the Army did not release Chen's autopsy report or the journal he kept.
NY1 spoke with Richard Meadow, the attorney representing the Chen family. He said the amount of time the Army spent at their meeting suggests it is taking Private Chen's death and the circumstances surrounding it very seriously.
"My partner who was with me was a 15-year JAG officer and senior prosecutor in Abu Ghraib, said he's never been at an Army presentation where a three-star general attended,” said Meadow.
The Chens say they still have many questions. They’re mostly interested in where the eight men arrested in connection with Chen's death will be tried.
"He would definitely prefer the trial to be held in the United States," said an interpreter for Chen’s father, Yan Tao Chen.
The Chens fear if it were in Afghanistan, they wouldn't be able to watch justice being served in the way they and their son would like.