LOWER EAST SIDE — A committee of Community Board 3 voted Wednesday night to join a growing list of organizations and politicians urging for a fast and transparent investigation into the mysterious death of a Chinatown soldier in Afghanistan last month.
Pvt. Danny Chen, 19, who attended school on the Lower East Side before he was deployed, was found inside a guard tower with a gunshot wound to the head on Oct. 3 while stationed in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The Transportation and Public Safety/Environment Committee of CB 3 and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are putting pressure on the Department of Defense for answers, amid allegations of racial slurs from superiors and lingering questions about the circumstances of Chen’s death.
“I think it is important that community boards respond to current events, especially those that impact the residents in your district,” said Gigi Li, the second vice chair for CB 3 and resident of Chinatown.
Li drafted a letter that was adopted by the committee, and will be sent to Army Secretary John McHugh pending approval at a full board meeting in two weeks.
Chen’s family said the military informed them that he had been beaten by superior officers and subjected to racially motivated taunts prior to his death, local leaders recounted at press conference last month. His cause of death has yet to be determined.
Ricky Leung, the secretary of CB3, was also at Wednesday night’s meeting to lend his support in drafting the letter.
“As an Asian-American I hope this was not a racial issue,” he said.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has also added his name to a list of politicians such as Rep. Nydia Velazquez and community groups including the Organization of Chinese Americans’ New York, that are pushing for answers.
“It is essential that this investigation be conducted as quickly and as thoroughly as possible,” Silver wrote in a letter to McHugh dated Nov. 2. He went on to request that Chen’s family be kept informed of any information “in a timely manner.”
In the letter, Silver also touched on the apparent issue of race in the Amy that Chen’s death has highlighted. Silver asked that everything be done to “ensure that Amy training include an emphasis on sensitivity to the diverse array of cultures” that are found in the nation’s armed forces.