FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky (AP) – A soldier testified that his sergeant gave him orders to kill three Iraqi detainees, then cut him with a knife to make it appear there had been a struggle.
Spc. William B. Hunsaker said Tuesday at the court-martial for Staff Sgt. Ray Girouard that his superior ordered him and another soldier to cut loose three detainees, then shoot them as they fled.
“They’re going to cut the ties, tell them to run, shoot them,” Hunsaker quoted Girouard as saying.
Girouard, 24, of Tennessee, is the last and most senior soldier from the 101st Airborne Division to face trial in the killings, which occurred during a May 9 raid on a suspected insurgent camp outside of Samarra, Iraq.
Hunsaker and Pfc. Corey Clagett have already pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors and were sentenced to 18 years in military prison.
Hunsaker testified Tuesday that after the squad took the three detainees into custody, Girouard told members the group’s first sergeant was angry that the detainees were still alive.
Hunsaker said he and Clagett took the three detainees outside, away from other soldiers. Hunsaker said that he pulled down their blindfolds and looked them in the eyes and that Clagett told them in Arabic to run. “I shot him (the first detainee) where his heart should be. I moved from right to left. I took aim in the same manner and aimed for the heart and the head,” Hunsaker said.
Hunsaker said that after the detainees were shot, Girouard cut him with a pocket knife, saying, “It’s got to look good.” When asked why he pleaded guilty, Hunsaker said, “I got tired of lying to everyone.”
A second soldier, Spc. Bradley Mason, testified that he heard Girouard order Clagett and Hunsaker to kill the detainees. “I didn’t agree with it,” Mason said. “He (Girouard) asked why. I said it was murder.”
Another soldier said Girouard gathered the squad in a huddle and told them they were to kill the detainees. “I took it as a joke,” said Sgt. Lionel Lemus, who also indicated he had not wanted to testify against Girouard. “He’s my squad leader,” he said. “I gotta stick up for him.”
Girouard’s attorney, Anita Gorecki, said in opening statements that Girouard never ordered his soldiers to shoot three Iraqi detainees, but that he did help cover up the slayings. “He saw what they did,” Gorecki told the military court. “He realized they killed the detainees, and in that moment, yes, he decided to help his squad members.” The soldiers originally said they were attacked by the detainees and shot in self-defense.
Another soldier, Spc. Juston R. Graber, testified that he shot one of the dying detainees after they had been wounded, but said he didn’t witness the initial shooting.
Graber pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to nine months in a military jail.
The soldiers had previously told investigators they were given rules of engagement by 3rd Brigade commander Col. Michael Steele to kill all military-age men. Steele has denied this but invoked his right not to testify. A judge ruled last week that Steele will not be forced to testify, but that defense attorneys could cross-examine the witnesses about their understanding of Steele’s order.