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.

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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."

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."

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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