The incident happened while on a training trip in Japan. I had just gotten off a US Navy vessel, in Okinawa, on Friday January 29th. I'm a US Navy support contractor that teaches computer systems to Navy sailors. I stayed at ta local hotel in Okinawa Friday and Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I took a taxi to the airport around 9am local time, to catch a noon flight to Narita the Tokyo international airport. I picked up my ticket and was having my duffel bag, that was my checked baggage, X-rayed and the X-ray machine alarmed. My bag was pulled aside and the airport security screener found one bullet in the end pocket of the duffel. It was a rifle cartridge, in 6.5 Grendel a caliber, that was used on my recent hunting trip to the Sierras, in October.
I sent my wife a text message, and informed her that airport security had found a bullet. She asked if everything was okay and I texted back that it was not yet okay. I told the security officer that it was mine and that I didn't know it was there and probably was left over by accident, from a recent hunting trip. More security personnel showed up and they escorted me downstairs to the security office. They asked me more questions in broken English about the bullet. I wrote down the cartridge type on paper for them.
They got an English speaking police officer on the phone, I told him that it was most likely left from a recent hunting trip and it was not work related ammunition. He told me to hand back the phone, and another officer showed up from the local police, who had me sit down. He gave me a form, that we struggled through the language barrier to fill out. During that process (we didn't get much farther than my name) the phone has handed back to me and I was informed over the phone by the English speaking officer that I was under arrest. I asked if I could call my wife and let her know, and he said I couldn't that I was under arrest and could not make any calls. They had me stand up and searched me and placed me in handcuffs. They escorted me outside and placed me into a squad car, in the middle of the back seat with a police officer on either side of me, and we raced through Okinawa with the siren going. They took me to Tomigusuku police station. There I was strip searched, had a mug shot taken and questioned again. This time by an English speaking officer known to me as officer Kay (sp?). I told him the story again he asked details about my gun ownership, how I locked up my guns and stored my ammunition. He did not seem to think I had the ammunition for nefarious purposes. He asked about my profession, travel in japan, and where I had been, and what I was doing. I told him I was a civilian system engineer, and taught naval electronic systems and could say no more. He informed me I was not required to say anything that was “confidential”. He asked me about my childhood, my parents and where I grew up. He asked about what schools I attended, and about my immediate family, income and home ownership.
We discussed if I would need a lawyer and they offered to contact the local bar association for a lawyer. He also offered to contact navy legal for me and I took him up on that offer. They cuffed me again and brought me into another room. They then itemized my belongings and allowed me to take out a couple pairs of underwear and T shirt and three magazines. They then searched me again and brought me into the cell block area and informed me my inmate number was 16. They had me place the underwear and t-shirt into a pukka on the wall that was numbered 16. I was wearing my pants and they gave me flip flops to put on my bare feet. Officer Kay informed me the food was very bad but I should try and eat it if if could because he did not know how long I was going to be in the detention facility. They gave me a blanket and escorted me to my cell. They had me take off the flip flops and leave them outside of the cell. The cell was about the same size as an average childs bedroom. It had a head at the end of the cell that was somewhat enclosed with a window so the guards could see in when using it. The toilet was Japanese style the kind you squat over. There were no beds, inmates slept on the floor, which was kind of soft for a floor, I had one Japanese cell mate at first but after a couple hours they put another Japanese inmate in our cell. I did not speak with them nor did they speak with each other. Meals were given through the cell door via a smaller trap door. They first pushed through eating mats that were blue with white polka dots. They they gave us a bowl of soup and a bowl of rice with some veggies like sprouts and little pieces of what looked like thin lunch meat and a cup of cold tea. It looked okay, but it tasted bad. Not sure what made it taste bad the ingredients looked fine but something they added to it made it hard to consume. My cell mates finished everything I did as Officer Kay recommended and attempted to eat what I could, which wasn't much.
That evening maybe around 8pm local time they lead me out of the cell searched me again then took me to a visiting room with a Plexiglas divider with small holes in the shape of of circle. A US Navy LT. a lawyer with navy legal, was there with a navy Chief. They informed me that they were working on my release and my case had already gotten navy attention at the Admiral level. We discussed the seriousness of the charges and I recounted my story. He said he would try and get me out that night but it may take longer. Worst case, he said, was that it could be two weeks in jail. I told him that officer Kay was treating me professionally and was kind and he said that's a very good sign, because he was not treating a marine arrested on a DUI the same way. He told me officer Kay had informed him that he believed that the bullet was not intentionally in my bag. I signed my passport over to the Lt because he said it would aid in my release. He had me read my rights under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). After the meeting I returned to my cell. Lights out was a 9pm and they gave us two more blankets for a total of 3. They also have us a small foam rectangle “pillow”. Its was about 3 1/2 inches tall and about 6 inches long. I experimented with different ways to lay out the blankets and pillows finding no way to really be comfortable enough to sleep, the night was taken up my pacing the floor and failed attempts to rest. Finally about 3 am I was able to sleep for a couple hours. Wake up was at 6am. They showed me a phrase in a large book of phrases, with Japanese and English that I needed to brush my teeth. I went to the cell door and was let out to a large deep sink and issued a tooth brush and given tooth paste.
Later they took me to a room re searched me and handcuffed me again. Then I was taken to another room to be finger printed. This was done electronically with a machine. They took prints of each finger on both hands and palms.
Around 10am they showed me a phrase in the book that said to brush my hair with my own hairbrush. I didn't have a hairbrush in the cell, so I went to the cell door and they lead me to the search room they searched me again then cuffed me. The cuffs were cuffed in front and were attached to a rope around my waist. They lead me out of the station into a van with bars on the windows. They drove me across town, which took about half an hour. They lead me into a building, through a series of hallways, calling out ahead to ensure no one was in the hallways. They brought me to a room with a series of cells with benches in them. I was placed in a cell by myself. I was in the cell until later in the day about 1630 local time. I was in cuffs this whole time. Different prisoners were periodically lead out and back in and I saw an American and wondered if he was the one with the DUI. This was the prosecutors office. I was the last one to be interviewed. They lead me to and office with the prosecutor and a female translator. They secured my cuffs to the chair. They interviewed me about the bullet and I recounted the story, that it was most likely from my Fall hunting trip. They typed up a statement in Japanese and read it to me in English and I signed it. Nothing in it was about my work other than my Job title as a “systems engineer”. After the interview they took me back to the police station and searched me again and lead me back to my cell. While I was being searched I noticed a basket in the room with some of my belongings in it. They feed me dinner and I wondered if I was to be released, and if that is why some of my stuff was in the basket. At about 8pm local time they showed me a line in the phrase book that said I was to be released. They took me to the search room and went over my itemized belongings, ensuring I was returned everything I showed up with. They lead me to a hallway outside the station and I waited for the navy Lt.to show up. When he did we went into a office and him and the Japanese police exchanged forms and signed custody of myself over to the US Navy. I also signed ownership of the bullet over to the Japanese police. The Navy Lt reserved a room on Navy base at the Gateway Inn. I stayed there, and did not leave the base until I was authorized to do so, on February 4th .
I can't be certain of when the bullet got into my duffel, it was most likely from a 2015 October hunting trip or a October 2014 hunting trip. It had to have been buried deep in that pocket, for it to be there so long without me knowing. My bag and I had also gone through several other airport security checks, since I left on this trip January 8th, and it had not been noticed until that day in the Naha Airport. I'm going to purchase a separate duffel to use for hunting and keep hunting gear separate from my duffel I use for training trips and travel, to insure this does not happen again. If your doing any international travel I recommend getting a separate duffel or hunting than you use with firearms an ammunition just in case.