Longtime friend of Lt. Alkonis is thankful to have him back in the States
Dec 14, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: Dec 15, 2023, 5:59 am
SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in years, Lt. Ridge Alkonis has returned to U.S. soil after a medical accident in Japan caused him to fatally strike two people while driving.
It’s been nearly two and a half years since the accident. Alkonis was imprisoned in Japan in 2021, and his family has been fighting for his release ever since.
“I look up to him, just as a friend, as a husband, father, and also just as a military officer from the time that when I was in the military,” said Andrew Eubanks.
Eubanks has known Alkonis for nearly 20 years. They both separately served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints in Japan and met when they joined the Naval Academy in 2006.
“And there was no way when I found out what happened that I was going to like not do anything and let, like, rich just be left to an injustice to your own his own,” Eubanks said.
Andrew has been at the front lines of efforts to bring Alkonis home, something that was achieved, in part, on Thursday. The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Alkonis is an inmate in their detention center in Los Angeles, California.
“He’ll be at a federal processing facility, while the Department of Justice goes through their protocol and process for determining what happens to him,” Andrew said.
Alkonis could be released in weeks or remain in prison for the rest of his three-year sentence, which he’s served nearly half of.
The navy officer was imprisoned in October 2021 after he had a medical accident at the wheel while driving his family from Mount Fuji. His wife says he blacked out and veered off the road, killing two people.
“In the U.S., something like this would be chalked up to an accident. We don’t imprison people like this in the United States. In Japan, they do,” said Sen. Mike Lee.
Lee visited the officer in Japan and has been working on his release. Alkonis’s wife has rallied in front of the White House and, at one point, briefly spoke with President Joe Biden. It’s been nearly 18 months of pushing for his release.
“This is not the end of his legal situation. Now up to the U.S. parol system,” Lee said.
With Alkonis’s return to the U.S., there’s hope for new beginnings on the horizon and friendships that can continue, in person.
“You have no idea how hard it is mentally and emotionally on the family when you’re just separated from your loved one in an unjust manner, ” Andrew said.