PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — A United States Air Force retiree was shot by South Korean police near his home outside Osan Air Base. His jaw was shattered in what officials are calling an accident involving a “fierce dog.”
Retired USAF Tech Sgt. Arnold Samberg, 63, was walking home from a dentist appointment on March 26 when he suddenly noticed police near a convenience store. However, the next thing he remembers is finding himself bleeding on the ground, Stars and Stripes reported.
Samberg was rushed to the emergency room at the hospital on Osan, then transferred to the intensive care unit at Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital on Camp Humphreys, where he underwent eight hours of surgery, his family said.
The USAF retiree was moved to a regular hospital room on Thursday. Nevertheless, his jaw is wired shut and the injuries will require additional reconstructive surgery.
As a result, Samberg can’t speak, but he’s written notes explaining what happened for his wife, Tonia.
“Every time he coughs it breaks my heart because it hurts him so much,” she said Friday in an interview at their home, which is less than 500 feet from the site of the shooting.
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Samberg said he doesn’t remember seeing a dog but he made eye contact with the police before he was shot.
“His only way of communication is writing on a piece of paper. And his biggest question is why was I shot? I was just walking,” his son-in-law, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Pollack, said in a telephone interview from Fort Rucker, Ala.
Further complicating the family dilemma, Pollack and Samberg’s daughter, Jacquelene, have been unable to fly to South Korea to help her parents due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
“Medically speaking they’re taking care of him, but we’d like justice. At the very least some kind of apology,” Pollack said. “Accident or not there’s a bullet in my father-in-law’s face.”
Tonia Samberg also was upset that nobody contacted her after her husband was taken to the base ER. She only learned where he was after calling a friend at the base when he didn’t come home that day.
Now she drives to Camp Humphreys every day to visit him, Stars and Stripes reported.
The Samberg family is frustrated with the way the situation is being handled. Moreover, they are unsatisfied with the explanation, believing someone should be held accountable.
According to Pyeongtaek police, Samberg was accidentally hit by a stray bullet as officers were trying to shoot a “fierce dog,” which reportedly belonged to an American service member stationed at the base.
Police said the dog escaped its home and attacked a South Korean woman who was walking her dog, a senior police official told Stars and Stripes on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity to provide details about an ongoing investigation.
“The police didn’t mean to shoot the American guy. The police were trying to shoot the fierce dog, but the bullet ricocheted and hit him,” the officer said.
He promised to investigate the incident “fairly and objectively.”
Tonia Samberg met with police on Thursday with a South Korean friend as a translator. They offered financial compensation but didn’t apologize or provide more details, she said.
“I need justice,” she said. “After my husband served for 24 years in the Air Force, this is what he gets?”
The 51st Fighter Wing at Osan said it could not release information about the case because it falls outside U.S. jurisdiction and the South Korean police have the lead in the investigation.
“We’re working closely with them, and we have made contact with the family to ensure they have the resources available to receive the answers,” the public affairs office said in an email to Stars and Stripes.
The hospital at Camp Humphreys declined to comment on Samberg’s condition, citing privacy rules.