The Army confirmed Friday that the father of a Stryker brigade soldier had contacted Joint Base Lewis-McChord three months before the slaying of an Afghan civilian that his son allegedly helped commit on his recent deployment.
Christopher Winfield of Florida has said he called several phone numbers at the base Feb. 14 to relay his son’s concerns about a suspicious killing that had taken place in a squad under the command of Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs. Winfield was told the Army couldn’t do anything until his son, Spc. Adam Winfield, returned from his deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, his lawyer said.
In May, Spc. Winfield allegedly shot at an unarmed Afghan after Gibbs tossed a grenade at the victim’s feet. That killing was the third linked to Gibbs. The others allegedly took place in February and March.
Winfield could face the death penalty or life in prison if he stands trial for the May killing.
The Army reviewed Christopher Winfield’s phone records and concluded that the father spoke with someone at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on a general phone line for 12 minutes on Feb. 14, Army Col. Thomas Collins said Friday.
Collins said Christopher Winfield called several other numbers at the base, including a chaplain and a criminal investigations unit, but did not leave messages.
The Army has identified the soldier Christopher Winfield reached, and it is investigating whether the call was handled appropriately, Collins said. He would not name the soldier who took Christopher Winfield’s call.
Army officials concluded that Christopher Winfield dialed the wrong number when he tried to contact the Army inspector general about his son’s fears.
“The Army takes very seriously recent media reporting in which the father of Spc. Adam Winfield said he alerted the Army to allegations of crimes by soldiers deployed to Afghanistan,” the Army said in a written statement.
Eric Montalvo, Spc. Winfield’s attorney, called the Army announcement “bittersweet.”
“You don’t get a complete acknowledgement, but it is somewhat vindicating that the Army is acknowledging that this did occur,” he said. “The Army has now recognized that the ball was in their court Feb. 14, and two murders could have been avoided had that person picked up the phone.”
The family has highlighted Spc. Winfield’s early concerns about his unit to show that he was not a willing accomplice in Gibbs’ alleged “kill team.” In all, five soldiers in the brigade’s Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment stand accused of murder. Seven more are accused of lesser offenses, including beating up a private who spoke with investigators about drug use in the unit.
Montalvo has described Gibbs as “(Charles) Manson-esque” and said that Spc. Winfield was in “survival mode” trying to deal with the squad leader.
Gibbs allegedly devised schemes in which civilians could be killed in combat-like situations, according to witness statements and court documents. His lawyer has denied the charges, saying the three deaths to which Gibbs was linked were legitimate engagements.
Winfield is in military custody at Joint Base Lewis-McChord while he awaits a hearing with an Army investigating officer who will recommend whether he’ll go to trial for murder.
A similar hearing took place Monday for Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who is accused of playing a role in all three killings, including the one allegedly involving Winfield. An Army investigator read a statement from Winfield describing that killing. Winfield told the investigator that Gibbs threw a grenade, and that he and Morlock “fired into the dust where the man had been.”