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Street renamed after soldier allegedly abused before taking own life

By Dominique Debucquoy-Dodley, CNN
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Sat May 17, 2014
A portrait of Pvt. Danny Chen is carried during his 2011 funeral procession in New York.
A portrait of Pvt. Danny Chen is carried during his 2011 funeral procession in New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A section New York's Chinatown is renamed "Private Danny Chen Way"
  • Chen died from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound after alleged abuse
  • Honor called "enduring testament to the life of this remarkable young man"

New York (CNN) -- A stretch of New York City was renamed Saturday to honor a U.S. soldier who killed himself in Afghanistan allegedly after weeks of abuse.

Pvt. Danny Chen was 19 when his body was found in a guard tower in Afghanistan in October 2011. He died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The new street, "Private Danny Chen Way," is located in Manhattan's Chinatown, the neighborhood where the GI grew up.

"This was a vote for tolerance, acceptance, and above all, respect," New York Council member Margaret Chin said last year when the council voted to rename a portion of Elizabeth Street in lower Manhattan. "Private Danny Chen Way will be an enduring testament to the life of this remarkable young man, and serve as a powerful reminder that bullying and racism have no place in our society."

Allegations of racially charged hazing, physical abuse and bullying by fellow soldiers are believed to have contributed to Chen's death, according to a council statement.

The Chen family told The New York Times in October 2011 that officials said that he had suffered physical abuse and ethnic slurs by superiors, including an incident in which he was dragged from his bed and across a floor for failing to turn off a water heater after showering.

In December 2011, eight U.S. soldiers were charged in connection with Chen's death.

When it announced the charges, the Army did not specify what acts were alleged to have been committed by the soldiers, but family members said Chen had complained in letters of harassment by fellow soldiers before his death.

At the time, an Army official said the soldiers were charged with hazing and abusing Chen in the weeks and days before he killed himself.

Army Sgt. Adam Holcomb, who was charged with maltreatment and assault, was demoted and sentenced to 30 days in prison in July 2012, though he was cleared on the more serious charge of negligent homicide.

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