Newly filed court documents say a former Jacksonville man who has been indicted in Arkansas in a 2016 fight in a restaurant on an American Air Force base in Japan nearly killed one of three U.S. airmen with whom he fought.
Rodrigo Pineda Gomez, whose wife is a U.S. Air Force major based on Misawa Air Base in Japan, was indicted this month in the Eastern District of Arkansas on one count of attempted voluntary manslaughter and three counts of assault by striking, beating or wounding.
According to a motion prosecutors filed asking that Gomez be detained until trial, the fight occurred about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2016, at Cafe Mokuteki, a 24-hour restaurant on the base. Prosecutors said Gomez, who had been drinking, went to the restaurant with his 20-year-old son to order take-out food, and then called his wife and teenage daughter to pick them up.
"Gomez stumbled near a booth where four U.S. Air Force Airmen were sitting: Souleyman Dia, Broderick Richmond, Avion Scaife and Timothy Houston," the motion states. "A few words were exchanged and, without warning, the defendant hit one of the airmen [Richmond] in the back of head. The airman slapped Gomez's hand away and he and another airman, Dia, got up out of the booth."
It says Dia "had his hands down in a defensive posture" and told Gomez to calm down. Then, "without warning, Gomez punched Airman Dia in the face, knocking him back into a table, and onto the ground."
The motion says Gomez's son put Dia "into a leglock, immobilizing Dia," while Gomez went behind Dia "and attempted to snap his neck by placing his hands on Dia's head and twisting it violently up and to the side. Gomez then punched Airman Dia in the neck and face, and then stomped on his head several times. Airman Dia was left dazed, incoherent, and unable to stand on his own."
U.S. military security forces arrived, but Gomez and his son resisted commands and hit the victims several more times, prosecutors wrote, saying that as the security forces led Gomez out of the restaurant, Gomez hit Scaife in the face.
The fight was recorded on a restaurant security video, which prosecutors said "reflects Gomez instigated the fight when he hit another airman in the back of the head."
The document indicates that Gomez provided a written statement saying one of the airmen "threw a punch and I defended myself," but prosecutors insisted that Dia, 19, who had been "merely eating a snack with some friends and who had tried to de-escalate the situation in the beginning," was the victim.
It doesn't say whether Dia has any permanent injuries as a result of the fight.
At the time, Gomez was an advanced master and instructor of jujitsu, a combat martial arts, prosecutors said. They said the fight led the base commander to ban Gomez from the base and other Air Force facilities in Japan.
Gomez was being held at an air base in Osan, South Korea, when he participated late Thursday afternoon in a detention hearing conducted over the phone in the Little Rock courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth Deere.
Attorneys said Gomez, his wife and their four children, one of whom is younger than 18, have been living off the air base as a result of the Jan. 4, 2017, directive from Col. R. Scott Jobe, commander of the 35th Fighter Wing.
Attorneys also indicated that Gomez's wife, who wasn't named in the motion, may try to be re-stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base at some point, especially if it benefits her husband's situation.
Deere denied prosecutors' request to detain Gomez until his trial in Little Rock, allowing him to return to his home in Japan if Japanese authorities allow him back into the country. Gomez was represented by an Air Force captain who was with him in South Korea, as well as by Little Rock defense attorney Molly Sullivan of the federal public defender's office.
Prosecutors indicated that Gomez, who has no criminal history, is facing up to seven years in prison if convicted of the charges. They cited screen shots of jokes about violence that they said he posted on his Facebook page about a month after the fight. One says, "Sometimes I feel like giving up, then I remember all the haters I need to choke."
Gomez, who was working for a contractor in Japan at the time, wasn't indicted until earlier this month, after an investigation lasting a little over a year.
Metro on 02/17/2018
Print Headline: Prosecutors say Japan fight nearly killed man