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Pentagon On Chen's Death: Hazing In The Military 'Not Tolerated'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- In the wake of eight soldiers being charged in connection with the death of an Army private from Chinatown, the Pentagon says there is zero-tolerance for hazing and bullying in the military.

Speaking a news conference on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby offered his condolences to the family of Pvt. Danny Chen.

"Our thoughts and prayers certainly go out to the family here," he said. "This is a tragic, tragic incident."

The 19-year-old was found dead in a guard tower in Afghanistan in October in what Army officials said was "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound." 

Chen's diaries and Facebook comments indicate he underwent physical and emotional abuse by some his fellow soldiers.

On Wednesday, the Army announced is was charging eight soldiers in connection with Chen's death. The charges range from dereliction of duty to assault, negligent homicide and involuntary manslaughter.

Kirby did not discuss the case specifically Wednesday, but said hazing and bullying is not tolerated.

"Any single case of hazing or inappropriate conduct to a fellow soldier, airman, Marine, sailor, Coast Guardsman is inappropriate and not acceptable," he said. "Hazing's not tolerated in the military. If it's found and it's proven, it's dealt with.''

Elizabeth OuYang of the Organization of Chinese Americans, said fellow soldiers called Chen "Jackie Chen" and said he was dragged across the floor and had stones thrown at him, among other things.

The eight soldiers charged are still in Afghanistan, but have been relieved of their duties and sent to a different base.

A hearing will be held to determine if there is enough evidence to move forward with a court-martial.

"We realize that Danny will never return, but it gives us some hope,'' said Chen's father, Yen Tao Chen, through a translator.

According to the Army, the soldiers charged are 1st Lt. Daniel J. Schwartz, Staff Sgt. Blaine G. Dugas, Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Van Bockel, Sgt. Adam M. Holcomb, Sgt. Jeffrey T. Hurst, Spc. Thomas P. Curtis, Spc. Ryan J. Offutt and Sgt. Travis F. Carden. 

VanBockel, Holcomb, Hurst, Curtis and Offutt are charged with involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and assault and battery.

Under military law, involuntary manslaughter carries up to 10 years in prison and negligent homicide carries up to three years.

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