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U.S. soldier gets jail term in BB gun shooting case

All Headlines 15:47 September 13, 2013

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Friday sentenced a U.S. soldier who shot pedestrians with a BB gun in downtown Seoul to three years in prison.

The 26-year-old staff sergeant, surnamed Lopez, was indicted on charges of shooting the BB gun at pedestrians and leading police on a high-speed car chase in the crowded multicultural Itaewon district of Seoul in March, leaving one South Korean police officer injured.

"It is hard to believe Lopez is reflecting on his wrongdoing as he denies important facts related to the crime," Judge Kim Hwan-soo of the Seoul Central District Court, said.

"We have no choice but to sternly punish him because he drove into a policeman on duty several times, greatly injuring him.

Lopez was specifically charged with obstructing police from carrying out their duties and breaching traffic and other laws, they added.

Another U.S. soldier, a 22-year-old female specialist whose identity has been withheld, was fined 5 million won (US$4,599) for her involvement.

A third U.S. soldier, a private first class who sustained a gunshot wound during the chase, was not indicted.

Lopez had been detained in Seoul pending the trial since the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) turned him over in April.

It marked the first time that South Korea took over custody of a U.S. soldier implicated in a general crime in accordance with a clause in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the legal status of the group of 28,500 U.S. soldiers stationed here.

The relevant clause under SOFA requires the USFK and South Korea to give "sympathetic consideration" to each other's requests for a waiver of jurisdiction.

The USFK previously handed over suspects in 12 serious crimes, such as murder and rape and other similar cases by giving "sympathetic consideration." The USFK, though, is not legally obligated to hand over its personnel.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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