Posted : 2013-03-04 17:05
Updated : 2013-03-04 17:05

GI admits to crimes in Itaewon shootout; one no-show

By Kim Jae-won

One U.S. soldier admitted Monday that he and two colleagues shot a Korean civilian with a BB gun, hit a policeman with a car and ran away on a rampage in Itaewon on Saturday night, police said.

The 26-year-old staff sergeant identified by his surname "Lopez" by the police presented himself under escort at 2 p.m. at Yongsan Police Station in Seoul, and admitted most of accusations against him, according to a senior officer.

"Staff Sgt. Lopez is cooperating in the investigation. He admitted most of allegations," he said.

A second suspect identified by police by her first name "Wendy" appeared at the station at 6:00 p.m. Police said that they suspect the 21-year-old corporal shot the BB gun at a Korean citizen surnamed Ahn based on testimony by Ahn and other police officers who approached them.

Police delayed summoning the third suspect, identified by them as a 23-year-old specialist named "Dixon," as he was in a military hospital after being shot in the shoulder during a car chase through Seoul.

According to police, Dixon told U.S. military police he was shot by an Arab but police have asked the U.S. Army to hand over the bullet he was wounded with as evidence, as they believe it was fired by a policeman.

The three soldiers fled in an Optima sedan after refusing to cooperate with police officers who had been dispatched to Itaewon Subway Station after receiving calls that American soldiers were threatening civilians with a BB gun.

The trio allegedly tried to run over a police officer on a dead-end street, prompting him to fire a warning blank and three live bullets at the car. The three soldiers eventually fled to the U.S. base.

The wounded driver is said to be in a stable condition. A police officer and one civilian suffered minor injuries, police officials said.

The damaged Optima was discovered by police near the Yongsan base earlier in the day and was sent to a forensic team for investigation.

"U.S. military officials told us the specialist is not currently available for questioning because he is hospitalized and taking painkillers," a police officer said. "We are in talks with U.S. military officials to proceed with the investigation in two or three days."

Police said they plan to seek charges of obstruction of official duties and traffic violations against the three.

The U.S. Forces Korea said it regretted the incident and pledged to cooperate with the police.

It is uncertain whether the police will be able to hold them accountable for the crimes given past record. According to data from the prosecutors' office, 6.1 percent of 344 crimes alleged against U.S. servicemen here were indicted in 2011.

In July last year, seven U.S. military police officers at a camp in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province were investigated for allegedly handcuffing three civilians over a parking dispute near the camp. However, the investigation of the suspects has made no progress, with none of the suspects indicted yet, according to police.

About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter North Korea, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

관련 한글 기사

'난동' 미군 추격 경찰 "생명 위협 느껴"

'좁은 골목에서 정확히 나를 향해 돌진하는 차량을 봤을 때 '정말 죽을 수도 있겠구나'라는 생각이 들었습니다.'

지난 2일 밤 서울 용산구 이태원동에서 난동을 부리고 도주한 주한미군 차량을 쫓아가 실탄까지 쏘며 대치했던 임성묵(30) 순경은 총을 꺼내 들게 된 배경을 이렇게 밝혔다.

그는 당시 막다른 골목에서 미군이 모는 옵티마 차량과 대치하다 차량을 향해 공포탄 1발과 실탄 3발을 쐈다.

임 순경은 4일 서울 송파구의 한 병원에서 기자들과 만난 자리에서 '무릎을 차에 치이고 나서 뒷걸음질쳐 모서리로 피했는데 차가 또다시 굉음을 내며 나를 향해 달려들었다'며 '다른 방법이 없었기에 공중에 공포탄을 쏜 뒤 타이어를 향해 실탄을 발사했다'고 당시 상황을 설명했다.

임 순경은 '운전자나 동승자 모두 표정의 변화없이 차분해 보였던 것이 기억난다'며 '적당히 위협하고 도망가려고 돌진하는 척한 것이 아니라 실제로 나를 치려고 했던 것이라고 확신한다'고 말했다.

임 순경과 함께 차량을 추격한 택시기사 최모씨의 설명도 일치한다.

일각에서 과잉대응이 아니냐는 지적이 나오는 데 대해 '급박한 상황이었지만 반복된 교육을 통해 익힌 대로 타이어를 향해 쐈다. 규정에 어긋남 없이 대처했다고 생각한다'고 답했다.

임 순경은 순경 시험에 합격하고 2년 4개월간 기동대에서 근무하다 지난달 21일 용산경찰서 이태원파출소로 막 발령받은 '신참'이다.

차량이 도주해 상황이 종료된 뒤 택시기사 최씨가 119까지 불러줬지만 임 순경은 병원이 아닌 이태원 파출소로 향했다. 잠시 병원에 들렀다가 사건 현장 감식까지 다녀온 그는 사건 당일 한숨도 자지 못했다고 했다.

임 순경은 부모님이 걱정할까봐 부상 사실을 알리지 않았으나 사건이 언론매체에 보도되면서 소식을 전해 들은 부모님이 전날 급하게 병원을 찾아 아들을 보고 갔다.

그는 '통증이 있기는 했지만 못 걸을 정도는 아니어서 총기 사용 사실을 보고하고 사고를 수습해야 한다고 생각했다' 며 '부모님이 경찰이 위험한 직업이라고 늘 다칠까 걱정하셔서 걱정을 더해 드리고 싶지 않았다'고 말했다.

한편, 사건 당일 도주 차량에 동승한 주한미군 C(26) 하사 등 2명은 이날 용산경찰서에 출석해 조사를 받았다.

경찰은 차량을 운전한 D(23) 일병에게도 출석을 요구했으나 미군 측은 D일병이 임 순경이 쏜 유탄에 어깨를 맞아 치료 중이라는 이유로 출석 연기를 요청했다.

  • 1. Analysts against arrest of Samsung heir
  • 2. K-pop star Rain, top actress Kim Tae-hee to marry
  • 3. Health alerts issued as fine dust blankets Korean Peninsula
  • 4. Japan blasts S. Korea's plan for 'comfort women' statue on Dokdo
  • 5. Comfort women were Japan's shocking human rights violations: Lippert
  • 6. Korean man abducted in the Philippines found dead
  • 7. Ban Ki-moon haunted by awkward slip-ups
  • 8. Court denies Samsung chief's arrest for 'lack of evidence'
  • 9. Moon Jae-in extends lead after Ban's return: poll
  • 10. Diplomacy dead between Seoul, Tokyo