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Members of Stryker Combat Brigade in Afghanistan accused of killing civilians for sport
The first opportunity presented itself Jan. 15 in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province. Members of the 3rd Platoon were providing perimeter security for a meeting between Army officers and tribal elders in the village of La Mohammed Kalay.
According to charging documents, an Afghan named Gul Mudin began walking toward the soldiers. As he approached, Cpl. Jeremy N. Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, threw the grenade on the ground, records show, to create the illusion that the soldiers were under attack.
Pfc. Andrew H. Holmes, a 19-year-old from Boise, Idaho, saw the grenade and fired his weapon at Mudin, according to charging documents. The grenade exploded, prompting other soldiers to open fire on the villager as well, killing him.
In statements to investigators, the soldiers involved have given conflicting details. In one statement that his attorney has subsequently tried to suppress, Morlock said that Gibbs had given him the grenade and that others were also aware of the ruse beforehand. But Holmes and his attorney said he was in the dark and opened fire only because Morlock ordered him to do so.
"He was unwittingly used as the cover story," said Daniel Conway, a civilian defense attorney for Holmes. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Morlock, Holmes and Gibbs have each been charged with murder in the shooting. Attorneys for Morlock and Gibbs did not return phone calls seeking comment.
A father's warning
On Feb. 14, Christopher Winfield, a former Marine from Cape Coral, Fla., logged onto his Facebook account to chat with his son, Adam, a 3rd Platoon soldier who was up late in Afghanistan. Spec. Adam C. Winfield confided that he'd had a run-in with Gibbs, his squad leader. He also typed a mysterious note saying that some people get away with murder.
When his father pressed him to explain, Adam replied, "did you not understand what i just told you." He then referred to the slaying of the Afghan villager the month before, adding that other platoon members had threatened him because he did not approve. In addition, he said, they were bragging about how they wanted to find another victim.
"I was just shocked," Christopher Winfield said in a phone interview. "He was scared for his life at that point."
The father told his son that he would contact the Army to intervene and investigate. It was a Sunday, but he didn't wait. He called the Army inspector general's 24-hour hotline and left a voice mail. He called the office of Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and left another message. He called a sergeant at Lewis-McChord who told him to call the Army's criminal investigations division. He left another message there.
Finally, he said, he called the Fort Lewis command center and spoke for 12 minutes to a sergeant on duty. He said the sergeant agreed that it sounded as if Adam was in potential danger but that, unless he was willing to report it to his superiors in Afghanistan, there was little the Army could do.
"He just kind of blew it off," Christopher Winfield said. "I was sitting there with my jaw on the ground."