WIESBADEN, Germany, March 30 -- A U.S. Army tank company commander told a military court Wednesday that he shot a gravely wounded, unarmed Iraqi man "to put him out of his misery," saying the killing was "honorable."
Taking the stand for the first time at his court-martial, Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, 30, described the events that led him to fire twice on the Iraqi, who he maintained was too seriously injured to survive.
Army Capt. Rogelio Maynulet, 30, leaves the courthouse in Wiesbaden.
"He was in a state that I didn't think was justified -- I had to put him out of his misery," Maynulet said. He argued that the killing "was the right thing to do, it was the honorable thing to do."
Prosecutors say Maynulet violated military rules of engagement by shooting an Iraqi who was wounded and unarmed.
Maynulet is being court-martialed on a charge of assault with intent to commit murder in the May 21, 2004, killing near Kufa, south of Baghdad. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. His attorneys have argued that his actions were in line with the Geneva Conventions on the code of war.
Maynulet's 1st Armored Division tank company had been on patrol near Kufa when it was alerted to a car believed to be carrying a driver for the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the Shiite cleric.
The troops chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver. The shooting was filmed by a U.S. drone surveillance aircraft.
Prosecutors grilled Maynulet on why he did not treat the driver, pointing out that he had been trained for medical emergency relief. Maynulet said the company's medic, Sgt. Thomas Cassady, told him: "He's gone, there's nothing we can do." He said he would not question the expertise of his medic.
An Army neurosurgeon, Richard Gullock, testified that it was unclear from the surveillance footage whether the driver was alive at the time of the shooting.
Maynulet appeared relaxed and spoke confidently, recounting the events in great detail.
Questions from the six-member panel -- the equivalent of a civilian jury -- focused on whether Maynulet tried to hide his actions by failing to report the shooting at the end of the day. Maynulet said he discussed the shooting in a debriefing that immediately followed the mission and denied trying to hide the killing.
He further testified that, as company commander, he had more important priorities on the mission than saving the Iraqi, including searching for two escaped passengers and maintaining the safety of his men. He testified that he was reluctant to expend limited first aid resources on a man he had been told would die anyway.