Later that night, after performing guard duty on the base, Bales, Godwin and a third soldier, Sgt. Jason McLaughlin, drank Jack Daniels whiskey
with Diet Coke out of a protein shake bottle while watching the movie “Man on Fire.” The 2004 film stars Denzel Washington as a former CIA operative who starts killing a series of people involved in the abduction of a 9-year-old girl he was hired to protect.
Bales was agitated about whether he was going to be promoted soon, feeling the Army did not value him enough, McLaughlin testified.
“He felt strongly he deserved to be promoted for what he had done in his military career,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, who had guard duty at 3 a.m., set his alarm for 2:50 a.m. and went to bed. He was awoken before the alarm went off by an agitated Bales, who barged into his room and flicked on the light.
“He said he had been to Alkozai and shot up some people,” McLaughlin recalled, referring to one of the villages where civilians were slain. McLaughlin was incredulous, responding: “No, you didn’t, Bob.” But Bales was insistent, saying he had shot “military-aged men” and encouraging McLaughlin to smell his weapon.
Bales then said he was heading to another village and would be back at 5 a.m. Before stepping out, McLaughlin testified, Bales made a request: “Take care of my kids.” McLaughlin said he fell asleep again, dismissing the exchange as bizarre but innocuous.
Shortly after that, reports about shots fired nearby put the base on alert. They were followed by an account by an Afghan guard who had seen an American soldier walk out of the base.
After determining that Bales was missing, McLaughlin and Godwin were dispatched to the main entrance of the base, where they began yelling his name. Soon, they spotted a figure wearing a dark cape jogging toward the entrance, the two testified. When Bales reached them, he put his weapon on the ground.
“Mac, did you rat me out?” Bales asked McLaughlin, the soldier testified. Later that night, as soldiers were preparing to move Bales to a larger base, the sergeant boasted to McLaughlin, telling him how many people he thought he had killed.
“My count is 22,” Bales said, according to McLaughlin.
Bales’s wife, Kari, sat in the front row of the small wood-paneled courtroom, which has two benches. She wore a small yellow pin in the shape of the yellow ribbon — a gesture of support for U.S. troops.
A spokesman for the Bales family said Kari is hopeful there won’t be a rush to judgment in her husband’s case.
“Kari wants one thing above all for the man she loves: a fair trial without prejudgements,” Seattle lawyer Lance S. Rosen, who represents the family, said in a statement issued Sunday night. “It is a basic right for every American, but especially for our soldiers we send into harm’s way to defend America and all the rights Americans cherish.”
Bales said little during the hearing, other than acknowledging he understood the nature of the proceedings and was happy with his lawyers. He stared intently at the prosecutor as he delivered an opening statement and did not appear to react to the damaging testimony his comrades provided.
During a break, Bales, who was not handcuffed, leaned over a wooden railing separating the gallery and clasped his wife’s hands in his.
“You okay?” he whispered.
She nodded as they let go.
Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.