Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher is being charged by the Navy for allegedly murdering a wounded Islamic State fighter with a knife in Iraq, CNN reports. A charge sheet dated from Friday alleges that Edward Gallagher “did … with premeditation, murder a wounded male person” under his care by “stabbing him in the neck and body with a knife” as the Navy SEAL fought against the terrorist group ISIS last year.
In a two-day preliminary hearing at Naval Base San Diego that concluded Thursday, prosecutors presented accounts from several other SEALs in Chief Gallagher’s platoon describing his behavior as reckless and bloodthirsty. They said he fired upon civilian crowds, gunned down a girl walking along a riverbank and an old man carrying a water jug, and threatened to kill fellow SEALs if they reported his actions.
His lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, said the charges were baseless. He said the only evidence that the chief had killed anyone came from accounts offered by a few SEALs who were disgruntled because they could not meet their leader’s demanding standards.
“I promise you, we will call many more SEALs who will say none of his ever happened,” Mr. Stackhouse said.
The purpose of the Article 32 hearing, was to determine whether the case should proceed to a trial. Both sides said they believe it will, most likely in 2019.
The charges Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher face include multiple violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice during his 2017 deployment in Mosul, and Gallagher is also being accused of shooting at noncombatants, performing his re-enlistment ceremony next to a dead body, obstruction of justice, and drug possession for painkiller tramadol hydrochloride. According to the report, Edward Gallagher tried to “discourage members of his platoon from reporting on his actions” once they were back on home soil.
Chief Gallagher denies all the charges.
Gallagher was arrested Sept. 11 and held at San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar. He considered filing a civil rights lawsuit against Navy investigators. he said they “laid siege” to his home and marched his children out of the house during a probe.
Naval Special Warfare Command spokeswoman Cmdr. Tamara Lawrence said in a statement:
“We train and operate in dynamic, complex and ambiguous environments and our operators are empowered and trusted to independently make difficult decisions during missions. They have consistently proven that their empowerment and trust is warranted. Allegations that indicate otherwise are, and will continue to be, investigated by the appropriate military and law enforcement authorities.”
As reported by the New York Times, Edward Gallagher is both a lifesaving medic and a crack sniper, he was repeatedly decorated for valor and for coolheaded leadership during 19 years of combat deployments. After his latest tour, fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, he was named the top platoon leader in SEAL Team 7 and nominated for the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest honor.
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