Highlights of testimony about Afghan massacre
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (AP) — For the past week, an investigating officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has heard testimony during a preliminary hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is accused of killing 16 civilians and wounding six others during a nighttime rampage at two villages early March 11. Among the highlights:
—Lead prosecutor Lt. Col. Jay Morse details Bales’ actions the night of the massacre: He watched a movie about a former CIA agent on a revenge killing spree, with two fellow soldiers, while drinking contraband whiskey from a plastic water bottle. He says Bales first attacked one village, Alkozai; returned to the base at Camp Belambay, woke another soldier and reported his actions; then headed out again to attack a second village, Najiban. Bales returned to the base covered in blood, Morse says, and his incriminating statements indicate he was “deliberate and methodical.” Morse airs a night-vision video taken by a surveillance blimp, showing a caped, silhouetted figure stalking through the fields near the base, ultimately surrendering when confronted by three other soldiers.
—Defense lawyers decline to give an opening statement.
—Cpl. Dave Godwin, described as one of Bales’ closest friends at Camp Belambay, recounts watching the movie with Bales and Sgt. Jason McLaughlin. Bales spoke of his anxiety over possibility of an upcoming promotion, and they talked of an attack a week earlier that claimed a colleague’s leg. Godwin says he was one of the soldiers who confronted Bales as he returned.
—Sgt. 1st Class Clayton Blackshear says he was drowsing late on March 10 when Bales came into his room and sat down. Bales said he was upset that the soldiers hadn’t retaliated for the attack a week earlier, Blackshear testifies. Bales said he wants Blackshear’s job in Special Forces, and he complained about his wife. Later, Blackshear is woken up by a report that Bales is missing from the base. When Bales returned, “I had never seen anyone with that much blood on him,” Blackshear says.
—McLaughlin testifies that he was asleep when Bales came in and turned on the light, and Bales said he’d just been to Alkozai and “shot up some people.” McLaughlin says that when he expressed disbelief, Bales told him to smell his gun; McLaughlin couldn’t tell whether it had been fired. Later, McLaughlin was on duty when two Afghan National Army guards reported there had been gunshots, and that an American soldier had been seeing coming and going from the base. When Bales returned, McLaughlin testifies, he was one of the soldiers to confront him and tell him to surrender his weapons: “The first words out of his mouth were, ‘Are you (expletive) kidding me?’”
—Two soldiers assigned to guard Bales after he was taken into custody testify that he smashed his laptop computer after being allowed to gather his things.
—Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell, a medic who reported seeing Bales after he returned to Belambay, remembered asking Bales where he had been. Bales’ response, he said, was: “If I tell you, you guys will have to testify against me.”
—Two American guards at the base recalled hearing gunshots in the distance. They shot flares, but could not see what was happening.
—Called by the defense, 1st Sgt. Vernon Bigham, who also served with Bales in Iraq, describes him as “very capable.”
—Army Criminal Investigations Command special agent Matthew Hoffman testifies that he flew to Belambay at midday after the massacre, having been delayed by bad weather. Hundreds of villagers were protesting, and “every time an American soldier showed himself they became enraged.” Afghan investigators went to the crime scenes to collect evidence and take photos, but it was three weeks before the Americans could reach the villages, less than a mile away. Bloodstains remained on the compound floors. Bales tested positive for steroids three days after the killings, he says.
—Maj. Travis Hawks, a doctor at the nearby base at Zengabad, recounts treating five injured villagers that morning.
—Christine Trapolsi, a DNA examiner at the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Laboratory, testifies that the DNA profiles of four people were discovered on samples of the blood stains on Bales’ clothing and guns the morning he surrendered. Additional testing of Bales clothing might turn up more profiles, she says. Swabs of blood stains taken from the compounds turned up several other profiles. One female victim’s blood appeared both on Bales’ clothing and in a sample taken from one of the attacked compounds.
—The first Afghan witnesses testify by live video link from Kandahar. The session is held overnight at Lewis-McChord to accommodate the time difference.
—An Afghan National Army guard on duty that night reports seeing one American returning to Belambay at 1:30 a.m. The American ignored commands to stop and continued into the base. Another Afghan guard who relieved the first one testifies that a lone U.S. soldier left the base at 2:30 a.m., laughing as he passed.
—One Afghan man, Khamal, testifies that he went to his cousin’s compound at Najiban the next morning. He found his cousin’s mother dead in the doorway and the bodies of other relatives, including six of his cousin’s seven children, piled inside and burned.
—Other witnesses and victims describe the shootings at Alkozai. Haji Naim says he woke to find a soldier climbing over his compound wall. Naim asked what the man was doing; the man shot him in the neck and torso.
—One of Naim’s sons, Sadiquallah, who is about 13, testifies that he and his friend Rafiullah were shot and wounded as they cowered behind a curtain. Sadiquallah’s older brother, Quadratullah, recalls scrambling with other children and yelling “We are children! We are children!”
—Sadiquallah’s sister, Zardana, age 8, sits down before her testimony and smiles at the interpreter as she sips from a pink juice box. She was shot in the head and spent five months recovering at a military hospital in Kandahar as well as at a U.S. naval hospital in San Diego, but now can walk and talk again. Called by the defense, she is asked few questions, and recalls that the shooter had a dark T-shirt.
—Zardana’s friend Robina, age 7, takes the witness stand wearing a deep-red head covering and a nervous smile. She recounts hiding behind her father as he was shot to death. She was wounded in the leg. Like other witnesses, she saw only one shooter.
—Criminal Investigation Command special agent Leona Mansapit testifies that months after the killings, she was able to interview the wife of one of the victims. The woman clearly recounted having seen two U.S. soldiers in her room, and said one took her husband from the room and shot him as the other held her back, Mansapit recalls. Later, however, the woman’s brother-in-law, Mullah Baraan, who was not present at the shootings, testifies that the woman says there was only one shooter. The woman herself has not testified.
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