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Four Hired Guns in an Armored Truck, Bullets Flying, and a Pickup and a Taxi Brought to a Halt. Who Did the Shooting and Why?

(Courtesy Isireli Naucukidi - Courtesy Isireli Naucukidi)

An incident a month before the shootings underscored doubts among his colleagues about Washbourne's leadership, several of them said. On June 2, Washbourne was leading a convoy to a State Department compound in Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. The Suburban in which he was a passenger jumped a curb at a high rate of speed, shattering the axles and halting the exposed SUV in the middle of the highway.

A blue civilian truck suddenly flew around a blind curve and headed toward the convoy, according to Washbourne and Naucukidi, who was riding with him that day. Washbourne fired more than a dozen rounds into the oncoming truck with his M-4, wounding the driver. He later said he felt threatened. Washbourne then insisted on torching his damaged SUV with incendiary grenades instead of having it towed.

Washbourne said he was following standard operating procedure, which calls for a vehicle to be destroyed once it is disabled to prevent it from falling into the hands of insurgents.

Naucukidi said Washbourne ordered the guards to tell investigators that the convoy had been attacked by insurgents, even though many of them believed it had merely been involved in a traffic accident. Washbourne insisted that a small explosion precipitated the incident and that the SUV had been run off the road by another vehicle.

When the team returned to Baghdad, Naucukidi said, it was met by Ryan D. Thomason, a close friend of Washbourne's who was serving as acting project manager.

"What happens here today, stays here today," Thomason said, according to Naucukidi. "Good job, boys."

Thomason instructed the team not to discuss the incident for security reasons, said his attorney, Michael E. Schwartz. Triple Canopy recently opened a separate investigation into the incident after new information about it surfaced during litigation over the July 8 shootings.

July 8: Baghdad Airport

The July 8 afternoon run was to be Washbourne's last before he returned to Oklahoma. The team was to travel to Baghdad International Airport to pick up a client, then return to the Green Zone.

Washbourne, as team leader, led a pre-mission briefing in the parking lot. As the briefing concluded, according to Naucukidi, Washbourne cocked his M-4 and said, "I want to kill somebody today."

Naucukidi said he asked why. He recalled that Washbourne replied: "Because I'm going on vacation tomorrow. That's a long time, buddy."

In an incident report that he later submitted to Triple Canopy, Sheppard wrote that Washbourne also informed him that he was "going to kill someone today." In an interview, Schmidt said he heard a similar remark. Washbourne denied making any comment about his hope or intention to kill that day.

Naucukidi said he didn't take the comment seriously, because Washbourne frequently made similar jokes. "He did this really every mission: 'Okay, let's go shoot somebody,' " Naucukidi said.

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