A 1st Armored Division officer will stand trial on a charge that he fatally shot an unarmed, wounded Iraqi man while his unit was deployed downrange.

Capt. Rogelio M. Maynulet, 29, of Chicago, now assigned to the division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, will be court-martialed on charges of assault with intent to commit murder and dereliction of duty, according to a 1st AD news release. He faces a maximum combined sentence of 20½ years in prison, said Maj. Michael Indovina, the 1st AD public affairs officer.

While awaiting trial, Maynulet is not in custody and has been “conducting normal duties as an officer” while his case has been under review, Indovina said.

Maynulet, who at the time of the shooting was commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, faces the charges from a May 21 incident near Kufa, Iraq.

Maynulet was leading his tank company on a patrol when they came across a BMW sedan believed to be carrying a driver for radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the cleric, whose supporters rose up against U.S. forces twice this year.

U.S. soldiers chased the vehicle and fired shots at it, wounding both the driver and passenger.

When a medic pulled the driver out of the car, it was clear he had suffered critical injuries, with part of his skull blown away, according to testimony during the Article 32 hearing.

Maynulet’s fellow officer, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin, testified that Maynulet told him he then shot the Iraqi in the base of the neck or the back of the head.

“It was something he didn’t want to do, but it was the compassionate response,” Cremin testified. “It was definitely the humane response.”

During Maynulet’s Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, the shooting was described by prosecutors as murder and by others as an “act of mercy.”

Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the 1st AD commander, had received the case after the October hearing in Hanau, Germany, found that there was enough evidence for a court-martial. Dempsey decided on Monday to forward the case to a general court-martial.

Indovina said he couldn’t release the amount of time it took Dempsey to decide the case.

A judge has yet to be assigned to the case. When that happens, the judge will determine the trial dates and venue and possibly set an arraignment date.

Staff writers Jason Chudy and Kent Harris and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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