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Army Drops Top Charge In Pvt. Danny Chen’s Death; 4 More Soldiers May Be Tried

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Army Private Danny Chen (credit: Handout/CBS 2)

Army Private Danny Chen (credit: Handout/CBS 2)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The family of a Chinatown soldier who committed suicide after repeated hazing from his superiors is speaking out after the Army decided to drop the top charge against four of the eight soldiers charged in connection with his death.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports

The four are among eight U.S. soldiers charged in the death of Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, who shot himself after what investigators say were weeks of racial slurs, humiliation and physical abuse by his colleagues.

He had only been in Afghanistan for two months when he committed suicide last fall. Chen’s relatives say he was brutally hazed during training because he was Chinese-American.

So far, U.S. military investigators have recommended that seven of the eight soldiers be court-martialed.

But the most serious charges of involuntary manslaughter against the four soldiers have been dropped, drawing outrage from City Councilwoman Margaret Chen.

“The Army is saying that these individuals did not intend to kill or injure Danny,” she said Tuesday while appearing with Chen’s parents.

“We are disappointed that the involuntary manslaughter charge was dropped,” said Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization of Chinese Americans. “We are in the dark as to why it was dropped because we cannot see what’s going on in Afghanistan.”

The Chens are demanding the trial be held in the United States.

“They are disappointed, but they certainly hope that the Army and the prosecutors will do the upmost in bringing this case to a rightful conclussion,” the family said through a translator.

The four soldiers are: Staff Sgt. Andrew Van Bockel, 26, of Aberdeen, South Dakota; Sgt. Jeffrey Hurst, 26, of Brooklyn, Iowa; Sgt. Adam Holcomb, 29, of Youngstown, Ohio; and Spc. Thomas Curtis, 25, of Hendersonville, Tennessee.

The three other soldiers who earlier were recommended to be court-martialed in the case are: Sgt. Travis Carden, 24, of Fowler, Indiana; Spc. Ryan Offutt, 32, of Greenville, Pennsylvania; and 1st Lt. Daniel Schwartz, 25, of Maryland. The military has not disclosed a hometown for Schwartz.

Investigators have not yet decided whether or not to recommend that the eighth soldier, Staff Sgt. Blaine Dugas, 35, of Port Arthur, Texas, be court-martialed.

Charges against the eight soldiers range from dereliction of duty to negligent homicide.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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