Charges recommended in soldier's death

March 6, 2012 at 12:20 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, March 6 (UPI) -- Four U.S. troops accused of bullying and abusing an Army soldier who then apparently killed himself should face court-martial, a military investigator said.

NATO announced the recommendation formal charges be brought after weeks of hearings at Kandahar airfield in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The four soldiers are accused of driving Pvt. Danny Chen to suicide through hazing that included racial taunts and physical abuse that included being hung upside down.

Chen, a 19-year-old from New York, was found dead Oct. 3 in a guard tower at his combat outpost in Kandahar province. He had suffered an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. But the Times noted some family members have questioned whether his death was a suicide.

The charges recommended against the four soldiers include maltreatment, dereliction of duty, assault and negligent homicide.

The Times said the investigators' findings will go to a brigade commander, who will make his recommendation to a task force.

The four soldiers were identified as Staff Sgt. Andrew VanBockel, Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst, Sgt. Adam Holcomb and Spc. Thomas Curtis.

Four others have been accused in the case, including Sgt. Travis Carden, who is to be court-martialed next month. In two other cases, the brigade commander's decision is pending, while in the final case, a military investigator has yet to make a recommendation.

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