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Former Camp Pendleton battalion commander to face domestic violence charges

Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, the former commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton, is accused of assault, destruction of property, making false official statements and conduct unbecoming an officer.

U.S. MARINE CORPS

By ANDREW DYER | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: September 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — The former commanding officer of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion at Camp Pendleton will face charges related to the domestic violence allegations that cost him his command in May, the Marines said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 43, is accused of assault, destruction of property, making false official statements and conduct unbecoming an officer. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early October to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a court-martial.

Zavala was relieved of command in May. The 1st Marine Division said then that he was fired due to a “loss of trust and confidence” in his ability to lead, offering few details.

The military news website Task & Purpose reported Zavala had been the subject of a misconduct investigation stemming from an incident in December, two days after he returned from a deployment to Peru. According to the site, Zavala is accused of hitting his wife in the face and taking her phone to prevent her from calling 911.

A redacted copy of the division’s investigation, published by Task & Purpose in June, details another incident, in October, in which Zavala is accused of breaking the couple’s cellphones in a rage.

Zavala’s wife filed for divorce and a restraining order. The Marine Corps issued its own restraining order April 4 and launched its investigation April 17, according to the investigative report.

Zavala is a native of Helotes, Texas, who earned his commission in 2000. He served on multiple deployments, including to South Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his Marine Corps bio.

Zavala was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for combat valor for actions during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. According to his award citation, Zavala led an effort to secure the site of a downed helicopter, protecting the bodies of the deceased pilots for 24 hours.

On several other occasions he exposed himself to enemy fire while leading his Marines, the citation said.

The Marine Corps declined to release a detailed charge sheet. Zavala could not be reached for comment Thursday.


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