Korean bar managers say troops turned down offers for help before soldier died
SEOUL — The men tending to a U.S. soldier after he was knocked out in an early-morning street brawl turned down multiple offers to call an ambulance, according to two managers at a hip hop club that he was thrown out of after getting into an argument with other troops.
Spc. Carl A. Lissone died about 10 hours later from a brain hemorrhage, following a train ride to a city some 40 miles away and a short stay in a hotel just outside the Army base where he was stationed.
Whether the beating alone killed Lissone, or whether immediate medical care may have saved his life could determine if any charges are filed.
South Korean police say all those involved — in the fight and Lissone’s trip to Pyeongtaek — were U.S. troops, including his alleged attacker, identified by a Pyeongtaek police official as a roughly 20-year-old U.S. servicemember stationed at Osan Air Base.
Few details have been released about the May 4 incident.
The U.S. military has taken the lead in the investigation with assistance from South Korean police, who interviewed Lissone’s suspected attacker as well as the soldiers who were with him. The National Forensic Service conducted an autopsy on Lissone; only the cause of death has been released so far.
Police said at least four U.S. servicemembers were involved in the fight that occurred well after the 1 a.m. curfew for troops here. It is unclear how many people tried to assist Lissone.
A Pyeongtaek police official on Wednesday could not confirm accounts by the managers of Club Naked in Hongdae, a popular entertainment district, that employees offered to call an ambulance for Lissone after the 3:45 a.m. altercation.
One of the managers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a bouncer kicked out a group of men who were arguing. He did not know how many were involved or what started the dispute.
When the manager went outside to smoke, he saw Lissone unconscious and leaning against the wall of a nearby store. He told his employees to bring water and paper towels to help clean him up but said it seemed “unthinkable” that the soldier might die.
South Korean police say that even though Lissone was bleeding from the nose and ears, the group took a train from Seoul to Pyeongtaek, home to U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, where Lissone, an information technology specialist, was stationed with the 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade.
The group arrived around 7:30 a.m. at the Royal Hotel, about a five-minute walk from Humphreys in a run-down neighborhood of bars, restaurants, hotels and knockoff clothing stores geared toward the local military community. A hotel employee said two men were holding up Lissone and put him in a chair. As they checked into a room, the men told the desk clerk that Lissone was drunk and that they planned to stay for only a short rest.
Police said video footage recorded by a street camera showed a foreigner administering CPR to Lissone outside the hotel around 1 p.m. He was taken to a Pyeongtaek hospital at 1:16 p.m. and pronounced dead a short time later.
The Club Naked manager said that while U.S. troops usually don’t cause trouble at the club, the business decided after the incident to ban all servicemembers under 21 — a move that would reinforce the U.S. Forces Korea policy that bans drinking by troops under 21. The legal drinking age in South Korea is 19.
The Hongdae district has twice been placed off-limits to U.S. troops -- in 2007 after a U.S. servicemember raped a 67-year-old woman there and in December 2002-May 2006 because of unspecified “force-protection concerns.” No ban is currently in effect, and the area, with its thriving nightlife fueled by students from nearby universities, is a popular destination for U.S. servicemembers.
Stars and Stripes staffer Armando R. Limon Jr. contributed to this story.