WASHINGTON – Stryker soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were investigated for killing a fourth Afghan this year, but authorities declined to file charges.
Prosecutors are pressing forward with premeditated murder charges against five soldiers in the deaths of three other civilians.
According to Army investigative reports, Staff Sgt. Calvin R. Gibbs and other members of his unit shot and killed the fourth unarmed Afghan on Jan. 28.
Afterward, some soldiers told investigators, platoon members planted ammunition next to the body so their superiors would rule the shooting justifiable.
Two soldiers told Army special agents that their patrol came upon the Afghan as he was sitting along Highway 1 in Kandahar. According to the statements, Gibbs and another soldier fired warning shots at the man’s feet; other soldiers then opened fire as well, killing the Afghan.
Army criminal investigators later decided not to press murder charges, citing soldiers’ stated fears that the Afghan might have been a suicide bomber and determining that they had given appropriate warnings before using deadly force.
According to the two soldiers’ statements, however, the Afghan hadn’t made any aggressive movements and there was no sign he was armed.
Some unit members admitted they placed a magazine from an AK-47 rifle next to the corpse “to give the appearance the Afghan was an insurgent,” according to an investigators’ reports.