CB3 Approves Danny Chen Street Co-Naming

danny chen 1

Last night Community Board 3 approved a resolution in support of co-naming a section of Elizabeth Street in memory of Danny Chen.

Danny Chen’s Parents: “Justice Was Not Served”

Danny Chen’s father Yao Ten and mother Su Zhen with elizabeth OuYang at yesterday’s news conference.

It has been more than a year since Su Zhen Chen’s 19-year old son, Danny, died in Afghanistan after enduring weeks of hazing at the hands of fellow soldiers.   But in some ways it’s as though no time has passed at all.  During a news conference yesterday in Chinatown, Chen was overcome with emotion as she thanked supporters for standing by her family and declared that justice had not been done.

This week the last of eight military trials came to an end when Lieut. Daniel Schwartz cut a deal and was thrown out of the Army for his role Chen’s death. Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden had previously been sentenced in connection with the hazing ordeal, which ended in October of 2011 when Chen killed himself at an Army base in the Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

During the past year, community activists and elected officials staged many rallies, demanded accountability from the Pentagon and organized a show of force at the trials in North Carolina.  The campaign was led by Elizabeth OuYang, the president of the Organization of Chinese Americans-New York.  Yesterday, she noted that only four of Chen’s tormenters were jailed and none of them received a sentence longer than six months.

Tomorrow in Columbus Park: Protesters to Demand Tougher Sentence For Danny Chen’s Tormentor

Private Danny Chen.

Tomorrow afternoon in Columbus Park, community activists will gather to protest the first verdict in the Danny Chen case. Chen, a 19-year old Army enlistee and resident of the Lower East Side, was found dead at a military base in Afghanistan, following weeks of racially-tinged abuse.  Late last month, the first of eight soldiers to face court martial, Sergeant Adam Holcomb, was acquitted of the most serious charges in connection with Chen’s death.  A military jury recommended a 30-day sentence.

The 2 p.m. rally to demand a tougher sentence is being coordinated by City Council member Margaret Chin and the Organization of Chinese Americans-New York.   A news release from Chin’s office sates, “We ask the Army to impose a more meaningful punishment in this case, and to dishonorably discharge Sgt. Holcomb from the U.S. Military… Sgt. Holcomb subjected Private Chen to an unrelenting campaign verbal and physical abuse, including bullying, hazing, and the use of ethnic slurs.”



Quinn, Chin Urge Tougher Sentence For Soldier in Danny Chen Case

Private Danny Chen.

There was widespread disappointment in Chinatown this week after Sergeant Adam Holcomb received a light sentence for his role in the death of Private Danny Chen, a local resident who took his life at an Army base in Afghanistan last October.  Holcomb was the first of eight soldiers to go on trial in connection with the tragedy, which focused new attention on racism and hazing in the military.

Today, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council member Margaret Chin (who attended part of the trial) have released a letter they sent to Lt. General Daniel B Allyn, who has the final say regarding the verdict and sentence.  They’re urging a tougher sentence in the Holcomb case.

Jury Recommends Sentence in First Danny Chen Trial

Private Danny Chen.

Sergeant Adam Holcomb, the officer acquitted yesterday of the most serious charges he faced in connection with the death of Private Danny Chen, received a recommended sentence of 30 days from a military jury this morning for verbally and physically tormenting his subordinate. The jury’s decision also recommended Holcomb be demoted one rank, to specialist, and pay about $1,200 in fines for his conduct.

Holcomb’s precise punishment remains uncertain; the jury’s recommendation is subject to final approval by Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, base commander at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, where Holcomb’s trial took place. The base will also host the military trials of seven other officers accused of participating in the racist abuse that prosecutors say drove Chen to kill himself last year while stationed in Afghanistan.

After Holcomb was acquitted yesterday of the heaviest charges he faced in the Chen case (including negligent homicide and reckless endangerment), it seemed inevitable his sentence would disappoint his outspoken critics. Chen’s death bitterly angered Asian-Americans advocates and residents of his native Chinatown community, who say the decision to acquit Holcomb of the negligent homicide charge constitutes a virtual declaration of impunity for officers who partake in racial hazing.

Army Sergeant Not Guilty of Most Serious Charges in Death of Danny Chen

Private Danny Chen.

An Army sergeant was found not guilty yesterday of the most serious charges in connection with last year’s death of Private Danny Chen.   Adam Holcomb was the first of eight soldiers to face court martial in North Carolina. A military jury found Holcomb guilty of two counts of “maltreatment” and one count of assault.  But he was found not guilty of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment, communicating a threat and hazing.

Chen, a Chinatown native, committed suicide at an Army base in Afghanistan last October.  Community activists and Chen’s parents attended the trial.  Today sentencing deliberations get underway.  Holcomb faces up to two years in prison.  Last night, City Council member Margaret Chin, who was in North Carolina for part of the trial, released the following statement:

This decision is an affront to the Chen family and to servicemen and women across our country… Never before has the pervasiveness of hazing and bullying in our armed forces been so exposed. Sgt. Holcomb physically and verbally abused Private Chen. His campaign of abhorrent and racist behavior was unrelenting, and it caused Private Chen’s death. By failing to uphold the most serious charges in this case, the military has effectively condoned Sgt. Holcomb’s conduct… This case has gained national attention and our calls for justice will not end… The military must enforce their zero-tolerance policy for bullying and hazing. This culture of abuse is unacceptable.

Supporters of Private Danny Chen Head to North Carolina For Trials

Elizabeth OuYang, president of the New York Chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans, spoke at a press conference today before leaving for North Carolina.

A group of supporters, friends and family of Private Danny Chen, the 19-year-old Chinatown native found dead in a military base in Afghanistan last October, departed from Columbus Park this morning for Fort Bragg, North Carolina. There they will attend the military trial of Sergeant Adam Holcomb, one of eight officers charged in connection with the death of private Chen, who died of a self-inflicted bullet wound after enduring hazing and physical abuse from fellow soldiers because of his race, military officials say.

The group traveling to the trial gathered for a press conference in the park this morning before boarding a van headed south. Led primarily by the New York chapter of the Organization for Chinese Americans, the group will spend the next week attending the trial in Fort Bragg. They will be joined there later this week by City Council member Margaret Chin, who has criticized the military for doing too little to combat racism and hazing. Many of Chen’s family members are already in North Carolina, but one of his uncles is traveling with the group.

Trials In Danny Chen Case Begin Tuesday; Activists Travel to North Carolina

Private Danny Chen.

Next Tuesday will mark the first of eight military trials for officers accused in connection with the death of Private Danny Chen, who was found dead at an American military base in Afghanistan last October. Chen, a Chinatown native, suffered physical abuse and taunts about his race from fellow soldiers in the months leading up to his death, military officials have said.

Army Recommends Dismissing Most Serious Charges in Danny Chen Case; Family, Activists Disappointed

A news conference was held yesterday at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, on Mott Street. Photo by Jonathan Zalman.

Community leaders gathered in Chinatown yesterday afternoon to respond to what they called “disappointing” charges recommended by the U.S. Army against four of the eight soldiers implicated in the tragic death of Private Danny Chen.  Pre-trial hearings came to a close Monday when an investigating officer recommended charges be forwarded to a military court.  Senior military officials will now make the final call.

Supporters of the Chen family, who live on the Lower East Side, hoped the soldiers would be charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 years confinement.  Instead, an investigative officer recommended  charging the four soldiers with criminally negligent homicide, which carries a three year sentence.  All four soldiers face additional charges, including dereliction of duty and reckless endangerment.

Two More Soldiers Will Likely Face Trial in Danny Chen’s Death

Private Danny Chen.

Army investigators are recommending courts martial for two more soldiers accused in the Danny Chen case.  Chen, a Lower East Side resident,was found dead in Kandahar, Afghanistan last October.  Military officials have intimated that Chen killed himself after weeks of emotional and physical abuse by members of his unit.

Following a hearing this week, the investigators concluded that First Lt. Daniel Schwartz of Maryland and Sgt. Travis Carden of Indiana should face military trials. Schwartz is charged with dereliction of duty. Carden is charged with assault and other crimes.

Last month,  they suggested dropping the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, against another soldier, Specialist Ryan Offutt. In the coming week, recommendations are expected concerning five additional soldiers charged with crimes related to the Chen case.

Detailing Danny Chen’s Last Days, Demanding Justice

Liz OuYang of OCA-NY addressed a packed press conference, flanked by Private Danny Chen's father (wearing a hat) and mother (in a white sweater). Chen's parents addressed the crowd through a translator as well.

Since Private Danny Chen died in Afghanistan in October, his loved ones have struggled to learn  the events leading up to his death. Yesterday, thanks to tireless advocacy by his family and activists in the Chinese-American community, the U.S. Army finally provided some answers.

“Over two months, this family has learned by dribs and drabs what happened to their son,” said Liz OuYang, the president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New York chapter, told a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of journalists at a Chinatown press conference this afternoon. OCA-New York has led the fight for justice in Chen’s death. “It takes a volunteer civil rights organization, plus many other organizations, plus the family, plus the press, to demand the truth and make the system work.”

After a Dec. 15 march in Chinatown involving 36 community groups, 10,000 viewings of a video about Chen, 5,000 petition signatures and other efforts including demands from local elected officials, Army leaders invited the family to Fort Hamilton yesterday, where they finally coughed up details of the 19-year-old private’s time serving in Afghanistan. OuYang painted a grim picture of their revelations, which have led military investigators to charge eight of his fellow soldiers in his Oct. 3 death by self-inflicted gunshot.

Immediately after arriving in August, she said, Chen was subjected to “excessive exercises” which “quickly crossed over into abuse,” the family was told. Over the course of six weeks, he was made to do push-ups and sit-ups under extreme conditions, such as holding mouthfuls of water, as well as crawling over gravel carrying full loads of gear. He was subjected to racial slurs including “Chink” and “Dragon Lady.” While his platoon was constructing a new tent, Chen was ridiculed and ordered to issue commands in Chinese, even though no one else present spoke his native language.

Danny Chen Story Finally Becomes National News

The front page of this morning's New York Times features the Chen story.

The Danny Chen investigation is now front page news. Yesterday, the U.S. military announced that eight soldiers have been charged in connection with the October 3rd death of the 19-year old Lower East Side resident.   This morning’s New York Times leads with the story, reporter Kirk Semple writing:

One night in October, an Army private named Danny Chen apparently angered his fellow soldiers by forgetting to turn off the water heater after taking a shower at his outpost in Afghanistan, his family said. In the relatives’ account, the soldiers pulled Private Chen out of bed and dragged him across the floor; they forced him to crawl on the ground while they pelted him with rocks and taunted him with ethnic slurs. Finally, the family said, they ordered him to do pull-ups with a mouthful of water — while forbidding him from spitting it out. It was the culmination of what the family called a campaign of hazing against Private Chen, 19, who was born in Chinatown in Manhattan, the son of Chinese immigrants. Hours later, he was found dead in a guard tower, from what a military statement on Wednesday called “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound” to the head.

Soldier’s Family, Activists, Elected Officials React to Army Charges (Updated 5:22 p.m.)

Chen's parents, elected officials and community activists held a news conference in Chinatown this morning. Photo credit: Office of Council member Margaret Chin.

Here’s an update on a story we reported earlier today: the U.S. military’s decision to charge eight soldiers inconnection with the death of Army Private Danny Chen. The body of the 19-year old Lower East Side resident was found in a guard tower at a military base in Afghanistan October 3rd.

Chen’s grieving parents, community activists and elected officials gathered in Chinatown this morning to discuss the decision. The Army’s statement did not make clear whether investigators believe Chen killed himself or whether the soldiers charged were directly responsible for his death. Elizabeth OuYang, president of the Organization of Chinese Americans (in New York), said “suicide, or homicide, those responsible for mistreating Danny caused his death.”

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez added, “”We need to know the whole truth… Racial discrimination and intolerance have no place in today’s military.”

Community leaders plan to meet with pentagon officials January 4th. They hope more information about the events leading to Chen’s death will be made available at that time.

Military Charges 8 Soldiers in Death of Private Danny Chen

The U.S. military announced this morning that eight soldiers have been charged in the death of Private Danny Chen, a Lower East Side resident whose body was found at a military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan October 3rd.

In a s statement released by the NATO Command in southern Afghanistan, it was reported that Chen, 19, died of “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.”  Last Friday, 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden were charged with numerous counts ranging from dereliction of duty to making a false statement to assault, negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

Protesters Demand Justice For Danny Chen

Su Zhen Chen, Danny Chen's mother.

Hundreds of community activists and concerned residents marched from the Army recruiting office at 143 Chambers Street to Columbus Park last night, asking one question: “what happened to Danny Chen?”   It has been two-and-a-half months since the 19-year old private – who grew up on the Lower East Side – was found dead at a military base in Afghanistan.  The tragedy has struck a nerve in Chinatown, where reports that the young man was tormented, beaten and subjected to anti-Asian slurs have understandably caused great alarm.

The rally was planned by the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), which has been leading a coordinated campaign not only to pressure the Pentagon to conduct a fair and thorough investigation, but also to address anti-Asian bigotry in the Armed Forces. A number of elected officials spoke last night, demanding justice. Chen’s mother, Su Zhen Chen, stood at their side, holding a framed photo of her son and occasionally weeping.