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Army Probes Events Behind Soldier Death


Dannny ChenArmy investigators are probing the circumstances behind the suspected suicide of a 19-year-old soldier from Chinatown who may have been harassed and beaten by his fellow soldiers before his death.

Pvt. Danny Chen had been in Afghanistan for two months when he was found dead with a gunshot wound below his chin on Oct. 3. He was discovered in the living quarters of a forward operating base in the Kandahar province, said Christopher Grey, a spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

His parents, Yan Toa and Su Zhen Chen, were told that preliminary signs suggest Mr. Chen killed himself.

But family spokesman Frank Gee said the couple were also told by Army investigators that their only child had been subjected to taunting and violence at the hands of the soldiers with whom he served.

"Before he died he was harassed, and he was dragged out of the bed and actually beaten," Mr. Gee said. "The Army volunteered that information to the family."

Mr. Gee said that a cousin of Pvt. Chen also received an email describing friction between the private and his fellow soldiers before the alleged attack. The email, from a solider who served with Pvt. Chen, described an incident in which Pvt. Chen had left a faucet running, disturbing the other soldiers in his unit.

Mr. Grey declined to provide details of Pvt. Chen's death, citing the continuing investigation.

However, he added, "aside from determining the actual cause and manner of Pvt. Chen's death, our investigation will also attempt to determine the circumstances that led up to his death. And you can rest assured we're conducting a thorough investigation."

The Army command probes all noncombat-related deaths.

Investigators have been in touch with Pvt. Chen's parents and are finalizing plans to speak to them further, Mr. Gee said. A meeting could happen as early as Wednesday.

Pvt. Chen, a 2010 graduate of Pace University High School in Manhattan, joined the Army in January and was sent to Afghanistan two months ago. If he was having troubles, he appeared to have kept it from his parents.

"Danny never mentioned anything to that effect," Mr. Gee said. "The first time his parents heard of it is after he got killed."

Pvt. Chen's parents are "devastated" and believe their son was murdered, Mr. Gee said.

Pvt. Chen had been assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division based in Fort Wainwright, Alaska. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Wah Wing Sang Funeral home on Mulberry Street.

Write to Sean Gardiner at sean.gardiner@wsj.com