5 soldiers from Fort Lewis Stryker Brigade in Wash. now charged in Afghan civilian slayings

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

5 Fort Lewis soldiers now charged in Afghan deaths

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — Five Stryker Brigade soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been charged with murder in the slaying of three Afghan civilians earlier this year, the Army said Wednesday.

The three separate killings happened between January and May near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province, said Fort Lewis spokeswoman Lt. Col. Tamara Parker. She said she did not have information yet on the circumstances of the civilian deaths.

Officials at the base south of Tacoma said Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes, 19, of Boise, Idaho, Spc. Michael Wagnon, 29, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Spc. Adam Winfield, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., each were charged Tuesday with one count of premeditated murder.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont., and Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, were charged earlier this month with three counts each of premeditated murder and one count of assault.

All five soldiers are assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

The brigade, which made its first deployment to Afghanistan in July, has seen heavy fighting against Taliban insurgents and suffered 33 combat-related deaths. Two others have died of illness and a third in a vehicular accident.

Parker said Gibbs was charged June 8 in Kuwait and is in transit to Lewis-McChord. Morlock was charged June 4. He and the other three soldiers are being confined at the base, as will Gibbs when he arrives.

The next step for the soldiers will be Article 32 hearings, similar to a grand jury. Officers to lead those proceedings have not yet been appointed and no dates for the hearings have been set, Parker said.

It could not be immediately determined whether defense counsel has been appointed for all five men.

The maximum penalty for a premeditated murder conviction is life in prison or the death penalty. Lewis-McChord spokesman Joseph Piek said decisions on whether to seek the death penalty normally are made after an Article 32 hearing.

(This version CORRECTS rank of Gibbs.)

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