Police shot a U.S. soldier on Saturday night in a high-speed car chase after emergency calls reported gun shots at a busy intersection in Itaewon.
Two patrolmen arrived in front of the Hamilton Hotel, where they found two U.S. soldiers and another individual in a car. When police tried to apprehend them, the driver sped away, ramming three bystanders who tried to block the vehicle.
"We were unable to give chase immediately due to heavy traffic and ended up losing them," a police spokesman said.
One patrolman jumped into a taxi and went after the car. The U.S. soldiers rammed two other vehicles as they raced off, reaching speeds of up to 170 km/h during the 12 km chase from Itaewon to Jayang-dong in eastern Seoul, where they hit another two cars.
The car eventually went into a cul-de-sac and the taxi carrying the patrolman blocked the entrance. The patrolman, Im Sung-mook, demanded that the occupants of the car surrender, but the driver threatened to run the officer over. Im suffered a leg injury as the vehicle raced off. Im fired one blank round from his service revolver into the air and shot three more live rounds at the fleeing car.
One of the soldiers, a private first class identified only by the initial R, was apparently hit in the shoulder.
"One of the rounds fired by the officer ricocheted off the pavement and hit the shoulder of one of the U.S. soldiers," a police spokesman said.
The soldiers then abandoned the car and ran away into the main U.S. military base in Yongsan.
Yongsan police gave the U.S. military the license plate number of the car.
Later on Saturday, Chris Gentry, the deputy commanding general of the Eighth U.S. Army, visited Yongsan Police Station to apologize and pledge to cooperate with police. Im said he fired because he feared for his life. According to police, the soldiers told U.S. military police that people who appeared to be Arabs tried to steal the car and that they shot one of them in the process.
But the story remains murky since police are still looking for witnesses. The only evidence discovered so far at the scene is some plastic pellets and no clear proof that they were fired by the U.S. soldiers. "We have informed the three suspects through U.S. military police to report for questioning," a police spokesman said.