Witness in Afghan civilian killings trial says slain man was Taliban scout

A member of a Joint Base Lewis-McChord infantry platoon voiced doubts in a military courtroom Tuesday that the shooting of an Afghan man could have been a premeditated murder staged to look like a combat death, as the Army alleges.

Testifying in the second day of a pre-trial hearing for Spc. Michael Wagnon, one of his platoon mates, Spc. Ryan Mallett, 22, said there didn’t appear to be time for anyone to plant an enemy AK-47 rifle next to the body.

Mallett told the investigating officer in charge of the Article 32 hearing that only 60 to 90 seconds elapsed from the time he first heard gunfire in the Afghan village and when he found himself running past the dead body with the AK-47 rifle lying beside it.

Mallett said that he first heard an AK-47 being fired and then saw Magnon run toward the sound with his M249 light machine gun. Seconds later, he said, an American M4 carbine fired, followed by several bursts from a light machine gun.

Mallett said he headed toward the gunfire to provide security and saw the body with at least two bullet holes.

Within 15 minutes of the shooting he said, mortar fire and machine gun fire rained down on elements of the platoon outside the village.

Under questioning from Wagnon’s defense attorneys, Mallett said there was a “likely possibility” the dead man was a scout for Taliban fighters intent on attacking them.

Wagnon, 30, is the oldest of five soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who are accused of killing civilians for sport in combat-like scenarios staged by the soldiers. Wagnon allegedly took part in a killing in February – the second of three deaths in which Stryker soldiers have been charged.

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