Otto dies after his N. Korea release
Family mourns, Trump blasts ‘brutality’
The comatose University of Virginia student who spent a harrowing year and a half in a North Korea prison died Monday “surrounded by his loving family,” relatives said.
“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost,” a family statement said of Otto Warmbier, 22, who suffered a severe neurological injury while behind bars. “But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person.”
President Trump responded to news by saying “Melania and I offer our deepest, condolences” — and declaring that North Korea is “a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it.”
“Otto’s fate deepens my administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency,” the president said.
“The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”
After serving 18 months of a 15year prison sentence for stealing a propaganda poster, Warmbier was released last Tuesday and returned to his home state of Ohio, where he was treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
“When Otto returned to Cincinnati . . . he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands,” his family said.
“He looked very uncomfortable — almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — and he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.”
His family added in the written statement,: “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
North Korean officials reportedly claimed Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill.
But The New York Times reported that US intelligence officials believe that he was savagely beaten while being held in North Korean custody.
Doctors at the Cincinnati hospital said there were no signs of botulism and that he had suffered extensive loss of tissue throughout his brain, according to reports.
Warmbier reportedly took the poster from a staff-only area at a Pyongyang hotel.
During a brief trial in a North Korean kangaroo court, he admitted to taking the poster and gave an effusive apology in which he called his actions “the worst mistake of my life.”
During the hearing, he made bizarre claims — which were likely coerced — including that a friend’s mother had offered him a $10,000 car and $20,000 in cash if he took the poster.
SAD END: Otto Warmbier, 22, in tears after his arrest, was subjected to “torturous mistreatment” for a minor offense.