Police investigate suicide of Army officer in detention center

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Police investigate suicide of Army officer in detention center

Military police are investigating an incident in which an Army officer in custody at a military detention center in Daegu died Monday in an apparent suicide.
According to a military official on Monday, the officer, an Army master sergeant, was discovered unconscious in a shower room inside his detention block around 5:40 p.m. on Sunday and was transferred to a civilian hospital, where he died at 9 a.m. on Monday.
The deceased officer’s family claimed that the military authorities' poor oversight of Army personnel in custody allowed him an opening to take his own life.
In a phone interview with Yonhap News, the officer’s father said his son told the guards that he was going to do laundry, but that no one checked where he was for almost 40 minutes.
“Nobody cared to look where he was,” the officer’s father said. “There are supposed to be patrols every 15 to 20 minutes. How are they running a detention center if they allow people under their watch to make such choices?”
The master sergeant had been taken into custody while he was undergoing questioning regarding a home invasion that took place earlier this year.
During the interrogation process, he also came under suspicion of being the culprit behind an unresolved rape case that took place within the Army in 2009, and was arrested in June.
Military police used 10-year-old DNA evidence from the crime scene to arrest the officer.
However, the officer adamantly denied the rape charge and requested a judicial recusal on grounds that he was being denied adequate legal defense in the case.
The officer’s lawyer claimed that the military court hearing the master sergeant’s case refused to grant his application for a recusal, and that led him to take his life.
“His trial would have taken place this afternoon, but I think he undertook this extreme choice [to commit suicide] after his continuous protests and complaints regarding the unfairness demonstrated by the court went unacknowledged,” the lawyer said Monday.
The master sergeant’s suicide is the second instance this year in which a military personnel member has died in detention.
In July, a first-class sergeant who was being held at the Defense Ministry’s military detention center in Yongsan District, central Seoul, was also discovered unconscious and later died while receiving medical attention.
That officer was arrested under suspicion of abetting the effort to cover up the sexual harassment of a female Air Force officer, who killed herself after her reports were ignored by her unit.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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