Otto Warmbier's roommate in North Korea breaks his silence

The last Westerner to see Otto Warmbier as he was arrested has spoken out for the first time in a new interview as Warmbier has returned home to U.S. soil after more than a year spent in detention in North Korea.

Danny Gratton, who was Warmbier's roommate and travel companion as they traveled in North Korea with Young Pioneer tours, spoke to the Washington Post this week, opening up about his experiences in North Korea and claiming U.S. government officials never contacted him during Warmbier's detention.

SEE ALSO: Fred Warmbier speaks out after son Otto's release from North Korea

Gratton said he became friends with the University of Virginia student during the tour, calling him "a mature lad for his age" and disputing North Korean officials' claims that Warmbier attempted to steal a propaganda sign.

"I've got nothing from my experiences with him that would suggest he would do something like that," he said. "At no stage did I ever think he was anything but a very, very polite kid."

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Otto Warmbier, North Korea sentences US student to 15 years of hard labor
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Otto Warmbier, North Korea sentences US student to 15 years of hard labor
Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced American student Warmbier, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state, China's Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. student Otto Warmbier speaks at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier bows at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier speaks at North Korea's top court, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour on Wednesday for crimes against the state. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, attends a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo February 29, 2016. Warmbier was detained for trying to steal a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. Warmbier, 21, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident at his hotel, his tour agency told Reuters in January. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier has his fingerprints taken at North Korea's top court, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour on Wednesday for crimes against the state. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken out of North Korea's top court after being sentenced, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. North Korea's supreme court sentenced American student Warmbier, who was arrested while visiting the country, to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state, China's Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
U.S. student Otto Warmbier reacts at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. The U.S. student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to "severe crimes" against the state, the North's official media said on Monday. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WYOMING, OHIO - APRIL 26: Fred and Cindy Warmbier stand in their home. Their son, Otto Warmbier, is incarcerated in North Korea after having been convicted and sentenced to 15 years' hard labor for 'hostile acts against the DPRK'. (Photo Maddie McGarvey/For the Washington Post)
Charlottesville VA - May 20: Emmett Saulnier of Cincinnati celebrates graduation at the University of Virginia, Sat. May 20, 2017 while remembering his friend Otto Warmbier who is being detained in North Korea following a trip there in January 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
Charlottesville VA - May 20: Dan Matson of Ashburn, Va., Ned Ende of Richmond, Va. and Tyler Rihn of Leesburg, Va. celebrate graduation at the University of Virginia, Sat. May 20, 2017 while remembering their friend Otto Warmbier who is being detained in North Korea following a trip there in January 2016. (Photo by Norm Shafer/ For The Washington Post via Getty Images).
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Warmbier was charged for the alleged theft attempt and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korean officials, until they released him this week and sent him home -- in a coma -- sighting "humanitarian" concerns.

Gratton was alongside Warmbier at the Pyongyang International Airport when officials took him away.

"No words were spoken. Two guards just come over and simply tapped Otto on the shoulder and led him away," Gratton said of the encounter.

SEE MORE: Comatose student Otto Warmbier freed from North Korea suffered 'severe' neurological injury

As they lead Warmbier away Gratton said nervously,"Well, that's the last we'll see of you," not yet realizing the tragic irony of his words.

"That was it. That was the last physical time I saw Otto, ever," he added. "I was also the only person to see Otto taken away. Otto didn't resist. He didn't look scared. He sort of half-smiled."

Gratton says no one should blame Warmbier for what happened, describing North Korea say "warped."

"No one deserves that. He was just a young lad who wanted a bit of adventure," Gratton said. "Every once in a while they single out someone to make a point, and this was just Otto's turn. It's so sick and warped and unnecessary and evil."

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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment
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Otto Warmbier: A timeline of the student's North Korea imprisonment

January 2016: Warmbier is imprisoned in North Korea, charged with stealing an item that had a state propaganda slogan on it.

March 2016: Warmbier is sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea

March 2016 - 2017: The United States advocates for North Korea's allowing Sweden access to Warmbier and three other American citizens, pushing for their release.

January 2017: President Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, signaling a seat change in American foreign diplomacy.

February 2017: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefs President Trump on the situation surrounding Warmbier's imprisonment in North Korea.Trump directs Tillerson to take all appropriate measures in securing the release of U.S. hostages in North Korea.

May 2017:  The U.S. State Department and North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs hold a meeting in Oslo, Norway, during which they agree to the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang's access to all four detainees. Sweden is later granted these visitation rights, prompting North Korea to request a meeting with the United States.

June 6, 2017 - State Department Special Representative Joseph Yun meets with North Korean ambassador Pak Gil Yon at the United Nations in New York. Yun learns during this meeting that Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year.

June 6-11, 2017: Secretary of State Tillerson instructs Yun to travel to North Korea with the mission of bringing back Warmbier. They travel with a medical team to Pyongyang.

June 12, 2017: Through Yun, the United States is able for the first time to confirm Warmbier's status. The U.S. demands Warmbier be released on humanitarian conditions. North Korea complies.

June 13, 2017: Warmbier is evacuated from North Korea, travels to Ohio where he will reunite with his family.

June 13, 2017: Otto Warmbier arrives home to Cincinnati, Ohio
June 15, 2017: Otto Warmbier's father, Fred, speaks out during a press conference on his son's return home.
June 15, 2017: Doctors give updates on Warmbier's status during a news conference at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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He also offered a somber word of warning about the country's oppressive tactics.

"It's just something I think in the Western world we just can't understand, we just can't grasp, the evilness behind that dictatorship."

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