An Army staff sergeant confirmed to investigators that he received a phone call from a worried father last year warning that soldiers in his son's platoon were deliberately killing Afghan civilians.
However, Staff Sgt. James Michael Beck said he didn’t report the phone call to anyone because there was no standard operating procedure for doing so, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
Beck said he was working in the operations center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle on Feb. 14, 2010, when he received a call from Christopher Winfield of Cape Coral, Fla., who told him soldiers in his son’s platoon had already killed one civilian and were planning to kill more.
Winfield said his then 21-year-old son, Spc. Adam Winfield, was being pressured to join the plot, and the younger Winfield was scared that his colleagues would hurt him if he didn’t go along, according to the statement.
Army prosecutors allege two more Afghan civilians were subsequently killed, one during a patrol in February and another in May, in a plot led by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs and Cpl. Jeremy Morlock.
Winfield is charged with joining Gibbs and Morlock in the final killing. He admitted in a videotaped interview that he took part and said he feared the others might kill him if he didn’t.
“I took a man from his family,” he said in the interview. “I don’t know if it was my bullets that killed him or the grenade that killed him, but I was still part of it.”
Winfield is one of five soldiers charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the case, which includes some of the most serious war crimes allegations to arise from the Afghan war.
Attorney Eric Montalvo, who represents Spc. Winfield, recently disclosed Beck’s statement to The Associated Press.
Beck told Army investigators he did not report the call to anyone or note it in a staff duty journal because “there is no SOP for reporting telephonic incidents of misconduct from unofficial sources.”
Instead, he advised Winfield’s father that his son should alert his chain of command.
“I assured the father that no chain of command in the Army would sanction or allow such activity and that if his son made the chain of command aware, that they would take care of him and the offending soldiers accordingly,” Beck said.
Spc. Winfield did not follow that advice, later saying he feared reprisals.
Christopher Winfield first told the AP last September that he tried to alert the Army to the plot the same day his son sent him Facebook messages describing it. He provided copies of the messages, as well as phone records showing calls to numbers at Lewis-McChord.
Beck’s statement is the first corroboration of the content of the 12-minute conversation he and Winfield had.
At Winfield’s court martial, scheduled for late March, the Army is seeking to bar any evidence that he or his family ever tried to blow the whistle on the plot, calling any such efforts irrelevant hearsay.