Soldier charged for fraticide headed to court-martial
Published: May 18, 2012
WASHINGTON – After years of deliberating over his mental capacity, the Army has decided to prosecute the sergeant accused of one of the worst instances of fratricide in the Iraq War.
In May 2009, Sgt. John Russell allegedly stormed the Camp Liberty combat stress clinic near Baghdad and opened fire, killing five servicemembers and wounding two others.
He faces a possible death sentence for five charges of premeditated murder, one charge of aggravated assault and one charge of attempted murder, according to a statement on Friday from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where Russell is in pretrial confinement.
Russell, who was serving with the 54th Engineer Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany, had been a patient at the clinic, but was kicked out because he was “verbally abusive,” according to an Army investigation. He then allegedly stole an M-16 off a soldier, and barged back into the clinic to shoot to two staff member and three patients, the Army said.
The incident kicked off a widespread investigation that revealed that commanders in Iraq lacked the necessary tools, training and guidance to deal with at-risk soldiers, according to an Army investigation into mental health services.
During Russell’s sanity board, the government’s doctor concluded that at the time of the offense Russell was suffering from major depressive disorder with psychotic features but that he was still mentally responsible for the crime, according to one of Russell’s lawyers, James Culp.
Culp has said in the past that Russell might plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
There’s no date yet for the court-marital.