An investigating officer has recommended that the Army drop one of three murder charges against Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the alleged ringleader of a group of Stryker soldiers who reportedly killed Afghan civilians in staged incidents, The Seattle Times reported Monday.
Col. Thomas Molloy’s recommendation is not binding. A final decision rests with Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commanding general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Molloy reportedly found that the Army didn’t have enough evidence to put Gibbs on trial for murdering an Afghan man on a January patrol.
Gibbs, of Billings, Mont., allegedly provided a grenade to Spc. Jeremy Morlock, who used it to kill the Afghan as part of a scheme they devised to murder civilians in combat-like situations. Pfc. Andrew Holmes also shot at the Afghan and is charged with murder.
No witnesses have said that Gibbs shot a weapon at the Afghan on the January patrol.
He allegedly shot and killed an Afghan noncombatant in February and staged a May killing of another Afghan with the help of Morlock and Spc. Adam Winfield. Molloy recommended that Gibbs face murder charges for those incidents.
The Army has cast Gibbs as the instigator of a “kill team” in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Eleven of his platoon mates face various charges of wrongdoing and are awaiting proceedings at Lewis-McChord.
Gibbs maintains that he is innocent and that he participated only in legitimate combat engagements. His attorney appeared in court at a pretrial hearing before Molloy last month and argued that the Army used unreliable statements from “dope-smoking” soldiers in a combat zone to build its case against Gibbs.
Molloy was the investigating officer for Morlock’s case as well. He recommended Morlock face a general court-martial for his alleged role in all three killings. Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, Scaparrotti’s predecessor, agreed with Molloy’s recommendation and forwarded the charges to a general court-martial.
Gibbs still could possibly receive a death sentence if convicted of murder.
Staff writer Adam Ashton contributed to this report.