Police questioned U.S. Olympic gold medalists Troy Dalbey and Doug Gjertsen Tuesday about the theft of a $900 stone mask from a club where they celebrated their victory in relays Friday.
After six hours of questioning at a local police station, Det. Kim Jae-ho said he believed Dalbey and a friend named Ernest Mangun were guilty and Gjertsen was innocent, but said the decision whether to prosecute would be made by the Seoul District Prosecutor's Office later this week.The three youths have been ordered to remain in South Korea until the case is closed, even though the two swimmers were kicked off their Olympic swimming team for what U.S. officials described as a prank.
Police arrested them early Saturday morning and charged them with taking the stone mask, worth $900, from the Hyatt Hotel, where the United States Olympic Committee is staying during the summer Games.
The swimmers admitted taking the mask, but said it was a prank and they did not intend to keep it. However, they were arrested by police at another bar about two miles from the hotel bar where they attempted to hide the mask.
The pair, looking subdued and nervous, were surrounded by about 20 South Korean reporters and television cameramen who pushed and jostled them as they attempted to walk up two flights of stairs to the interrogation room.
"This is really bad," said Mangun, a friend of the swimmers who was also allegedly involved in the incident, as the three were carried along by the wave pushing, shoving and shouting reporters.
"Our actions were in boyish exuberance," Dalbey, of San Jose, Calif., said in a statement before they were to be fingerprinted and questioned. "We had no intention of keeping the statue or upsetting anyone."
"We would again like to apologize to the Korean people and hope that our actions have not jeopardized positive relations between Korea and the United States."
Gjertsen, of Atlanta, Ga., said "we are deeply sorry" for the incident and also apologized to "our gracious hosts in Seoul."
Dalbey, Gjertsen and Grynde were questioned separately by police for about two hours each in the presence of a U.S. Embassy official, USOC lawyer Ron Rowan and an interpreter hired by the Americans.
"In my opinion, as a result of the investigation, I think Troy Dalbey and Ernest Mangun are guilty. Douglas Gjertsen is not guilty," said Det. Kim after the interrogations ended.
"I don't want to hurt Korean-American relations in this case, but the problem is very difficult," Kim said, refering to speculation that the investigation of the U.S. swimmers was a tit-for-tat affair sparked by critical U.S. coverage of an incident last week when Korean boxing coaches beat up a referee.
"The point is that recently American NBC (TV) has commented about something being wrong about Korea. A lot of people don't like this case," Kim said.
Police Superintendent Hong Soon-mu said a report would be filed with the Seoul District Prosecutor's Office Wednesday, which would decide whether or not to prosecute the swimmers.