Authorities have charged an 18-year-old Kadena Air Base, Japan, military dependent with sexually assaulting a minor and filming part of the attack on his cell phone in February.
The case against Ricky Isiah Sherwood is one of four now under investigation in which Kadena High School students were allegedly victimized.
Sherwood, a White Bear Lake, Minnesota, native who was employed at the base, was arrested May 7 on charges of sexual abuse and production and possession of child pornography, the Justice Department announced. He has been ordered back to the United States.
A spokesman for the Department of Defense Education Activity in the Pacific declined to release any details on the other three cases because the investigations are ongoing. But Stars and Stripes reported the three alleged incidents occurred in as many weeks, the most recent over Memorial Day weekend and unrelated to school events.
Another incident reportedly occurred at Kadena High School on May 10 and is being handled by Okinawan prefectural police, the paper reported. The final case allegedly occurred over the weekend of May 3. No details were reported.
Officials said the spate of cases do not necessarily indicate a trend or a rise in sexual assaults.
Kadena High School principal Terry Gibson sent a letter to students and parents May 30 about the incidents.
“For privacy reasons and to avoid interfering with ongoing criminal investigations, we are unable to comment on any specific cases,” Gibson wrote. “However, we want you to know that we take this matter very seriously and are doing our part to (a) prevent future incidents to the greatest extent possible and (b) to encourage prompt reporting of any sexual misconduct.”
School officials immediately notify law enforcement when they learn of an allegation, provide counseling and support to the victim and cooperate with investigations, according to the letter.
“To be clear, we’re not interested in running out the clock on the school year; we’re not just hoping this problem goes away on its own; and we’re not sweeping anything under the rug,” Gibson continued.
On April 29, all Kadena High School students received sexual assault prevention and response briefings, Charly Hoff, a spokesman for DoDEA-Pacific said in an email.
Students will attend a second, gender-specific followup briefing Thursday to answer specific questions, raise awareness, review prevention strategies and discuss the consequences of sexual assault, Hoff said.
“Kadena High School staff are providing counseling and other support to students as needed and have taken other appropriate actions to ensure the safety of the campus,” he said in an email. “As educators, we are committed to doing our part to help end sexual assault, but we can’t do it alone. We need peers, parents, extended family members, leaders and other caring individuals in the community to be part of the solution.”