NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – A U.S. sailor was arrested Sunday on suspicion of drunk driving in Okinawa, where a U.S. base worker’s alleged involvement in the death of a local woman last month has reignited anger among residents.
The three-vehicle accident, which injured two people, prompted the Defense Ministry to lodge a protest with Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the U.S. military commander in Okinawa, and occurred on the same day as the prefectural assembly election.
Arrested by the Okinawa Prefectural Police was Petty Officer 2nd Class Aimee Mejia, 21, who is stationed at Kadena Air Base.
Mejia is suspected of driving under the influence in the town of Kadena late Saturday, crossing into the opposite lane and colliding with two vehicles at around 11:40 p.m., the police said.
A 35-year-old woman in one of the vehicles struck by the suspect’s car suffered a broken breast bone, while a 30-year-old man in the other vehicle was left with a bruised arm. The suspect was unhurt.
According to a breath test, Mejia’s blood alcohol reading was six times the legal limit, the police said.
The incident took place after U.S. forces in Okinawa imposed a midnight curfew and off-base drinking ban last month following the arrest of Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a former marine who worked as a civilian at the base, on suspicion of dumping the body of a 20-year-old Japanese woman he has reportedly admitted to raping and killing. The ban is to be in place for roughly a month.
In light of the slaying, Gov. Takeshi Onaga has called for revising the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, which grants virtual extraterritorial rights to U.S. military service members.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, who is currently visiting Singapore, told reporters that the drunken driving incident, coming despite the measures to tighten discipline among U.S. military personnel in Okinawa, is “extremely regrettable.”
Japan will continue to urge U.S. forces to ensure that all personnel stationed in Japan abide by Japanese laws, Nakatani said.