Concerned about gang violence, U.S. military leaders on Guam are considering a return to 'shore patrols' on liberty nights following attacks in which deployed Marines and sailors were beaten with baseball bats, pipes, clubs and fists. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
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Concerned about gang violence, U.S. military leaders on Guam are considering a return to “shore patrols” on liberty nights following attacks in which deployed Marines and sailors were beaten with baseball bats, pipes, clubs and fists.
Select sailors from various commands would particpate in the “shore patrol” program, which was established in 2010, to proactively head off liberty incidents, said Navy Lt. Matt Knight, a spokesman with Joint Region Marianas, on Guam. Sailors with the patrol have a longstanding relationship with the Guam Police Department, he said.
Military leaders are also urging Marines and sailors to take their personal safety seriously, suggesting they stay in groups and use alcohol responsibly.
The advice follows a series of attacks in November on Marines and sailors. The Marines are deployed to Guam to participate in Forager Fury II, a military exercise in the Mariana Islands slated to run through Dec. 20.
On Nov. 23, three lance corporals with Marine Aircraft Group 12, based out of Iwakuni, Japan, were assaulted by a group of eight civilians — two adult men and six minors — while on liberty in Tumon, a beach village at the center of Guam’s tourist industry. The attack happened about 9:45 p.m. All sustained minor bruises and lacerations, and were treated that night at the local naval hospital, said Maj. Neal Fisher, a public affairs officer in Guam.
“One of the Marines was punched in the face and knocked to the ground, where he was repeatedly kicked by multiple attackers,” Fisher said. “The other two Marines were attacked with baseball bats, pipes and clubs.”
A week earlier, six sailors were assaulted by a group of about 10 to 12 people around 2 a.m. Those assailants also used bats, clubs and pipes. Most recently, on Nov. 30, a lone sailor was attacked by two people just before midnight. Those attacks also took place in Tumon.
The Guam Police Department arrested eight people allegedly involved on the attack on the Marines on Nov. 28, Fisher said. All are thought to be associated with a local gang called “H-Up Ruckus,” according to the Pacific Daily News.
Duane Marvin Naputi, 18, and Marcus Damian, 19, were charged with two counts of rioting as third-degree felonies, and assault and jurisdiction over an adult as misdemeanors, the Guam newspaper reported. The others arrested were between the ages of 14 and 17.
The three Marines were walking in an area lined with hotels, restaurants and clubs, Fisher said. Naputi said he flashed the peace sign to the men, but then thought they “flicked them off,” the Pacific Daily News reported. They parked, went to find the Marines and asked them if they wanted to fight. The Marines responded “no,” but one of the men allegedly blindsided a Marine with a punch to the head, knocking him unconscious, and the group then allegedly attacked all three men, punching and kicking them, the newspaper reported.
The group allegedly started another fight later that night, according to the Pacific Daily News, and police say they have evidence that the same men attacked a Korean civilian earlier in the day.
Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, who oversees military operations in Guam, took to Facebook to express his gratitude to the local authorities for the arrests.
“Your dedication to finding the individuals who allegedly assaulted our service members resulted in several arrests earlier today and made Guam a safer place for everyone to enjoy,” he wrote.
Payne also used Facebook to remind service members in Guam to be mindful of the recent attacks and take extra safety precautions when going out. He told troops to call 911 if they need assistance because the Guam Police Department has a better chance of apprehending suspects if they know about it right away.
No arrests have been made in the two attacks against the sailors.
Guam police officials downplay the possibility of a gang problem.
“We do have groups of teens and young adults that give themselves gang titles, but they do not exhibit the types of violent gang behavior like we have in the mainland United States,” Officer A.J. Balajadia told the Pacific Daily News.