3 soldiers charged in Iraqi's drowning

Detainee was allegedly forced to jump off bridge in Samarra, Army officials say

July 03, 2004|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Three soldiers with the Army's 4th Infantry Division have been charged with manslaughter in the drowning of an Iraqi who was allegedly forced in January to jump off a bridge that spans the Tigris River in the city of Samarra, the Army announced yesterday.

A fourth soldier from the same division is being charged with ordering a second Iraqi to jump, although that man survived, Army officials said.

It was the first time that soldiers have faced serious charges involving the death of an Iraqi who was in U.S. custody, an Army official said, though not the first charges involving the alleged killing of an Iraqi by American soldiers.

Last month, a captain from the 1st Armored Division was charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi driver who was wounded by U.S. fire after a high-speed chase in May. After approaching the car, which also included a wounded aide to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the captain, whose name has not been released, allegedly drew his pistol and shot the seriously injured driver at close range, officials said.

In two previous cases involving deaths, a soldier was reduced in rank and discharged from the Army in the fatal shooting of an Iraqi detainee in September at a forward operating base. No further details were provided.

Also, in November soldiers fatally shot three Iraqi prisoners during a riot at Abu Ghraib prison, although an investigation found that deadly force was justifiable, the Army said.

The Army said the drowning occurred Jan. 4 in Samarra, a city north of Baghdad that at the time was a nest of insurgent activity and the scene of daily attacks on U.S. troops and convoys. The Iraqi victim was listed as a detainee. No other details were released.

Back at Fort Carson

The four soldiers are assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which is based at Fort Carson, Colo., and is part of the 4th Infantry from Fort Hood, Texas. All of the brigade's 4,500 soldiers returned to Fort Carson by April after nearly a year in Iraq.

Two of the soldiers, 1st Lt. Jack M. Saville, 24, and Sgt. 1st Class Tracy E. Perkins, 33, were formally charged June 7 with manslaughter, assault, conspiracy and obstruction of justice, according to officials with the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood. On June 28, Sgt. Reggie Martinez, 24, was charged with manslaughter, and Spc. Terry Bowman, 21, was charged with assault, officials said. All four men are charged with making false statements.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter under U.S. military law is 10 years in prison.

The military lawyers for the soldiers were not immediately available yesterday because most personnel were off for the holiday weekend, said Douglas Rule, a Fort Carson spokesman. Efforts to reach the accused were unsuccessful.

Saville's father, Tom Saville of Tappahannock, Va., said his son was a 2002 graduate of West Point and was "a good kid and a loyal soldier."

Maj. Randy Cephus, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division, said that while two of the soldiers were charged last month, officials waited for the investigation to be completed on the remaining two before verifying the information and releasing it.

All four soldiers are still with the brigade, though Saville and Perkins have been removed from their platoon leadership posts, Cephus said.

The commander of the 3rd Brigade has appointed an investigating officer to conduct an Article 32 hearing, the military's equivalent of a grand jury proceeding. That investigation will determine whether there is enough evidence to go forward with a court-martial. No date has been set for the hearing, officials said.

The Army is investigating other deaths besides the drowning.

One involves a soldier who is accused of fatally shooting an Afghan who had lunged toward a weapon, while another involves a soldier who is accused of fatally shooting an Iraqi when he lunged at another soldier, the official said.

Other deaths

Eight other deaths - all classified homicides - are also under investigation involving Iraqis and Afghans held as detainees, the Army said.

Meanwhile, at least two other Fort Carson soldiers are under investigation in the death of another Iraqi in custody, Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who was smothered Nov. 26 while in U.S. custody at Qaim, Iraq. An announcement Nov. 27 by the U.S. military in Baghdad said that Mowhoush died of "natural causes."

Last week, Rep. Joel Hefley, a Republican who represents the Fort Carson area, and other members of the Armed Services Committee, called on the Pentagon to explain why the Army initially listed Mowhoush's death as natural and why his death certificate was not issued until six months after he died.

"Evidently the news was released that [Mowhoush] died of natural causes. Now it would appear that is not the case. If that is false information that was put out there to cover it up, I'm very disturbed about that," Hefley said.

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