HANAU, Germany — One might easily pass the comment off as a desperate plea by a loving father bent on saving his son from a life behind bars.

But like his son, who is a captain in the U.S. Army, Dr. Rogelio Maynulet is no ordinary man, especially when you consider the Cuban immigrant worked his way up from being a janitor to the chief of staff of a hospital in Chicago.

“We have given two of our children to America, and we are proud, very proud of them,” the retired doctor noted, referring to Capt. Rogelio M. Maynulet and his younger brother, Daniel, an enlisted soldier.

The letter, read in a court by Rogelio Maynulet’s attorney, continued: “For us, for his brother, for his sister, for all our friends, family members and for many Americans, regardless of race or religion, he is an American hero.”

By all accounts, Capt. Maynulet, known by friends as “Roger,” was the consummate soldier. One former commander said the young officer was destined to become “easily, a brigade commander or higher.”

And yet, Thursday found Maynulet in a military courtroom for a pretrial hearing relating to the death of an Iraqi man on May 21. The 29-year-old officer has been charged with premeditated murder and dereliction of duty.

“The guy was moving,” Capt. Daniel Sennott, an Army prosecutor, said of the Iraqi man in closing remarks before an Article 32 hearing officer.

Thursday’s session at Pioneer Casern in Hanau marked the end of a legal process that began back in Baghdad in June. The Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, was held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for Maynulet to stand trial. The hearing officer will make a recommendation that may or may not be accepted by the convening authority, Maj. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

Sennott maintained that Maynulet unlawfully killed the man, identified in news reports as Karim Hassan Abed Ali al-Haleji. Al-Haleji, the father of seven, had been a driver for an aid to Shiite religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

At the time of the incident, Maynulet was commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 1st Armored Division. He and members of his unit were searching for al-Sadr, wanted by authorities for his apparent role in the killing of a rival cleric.

Driving near the cities of Najaf and Kufa, south of Baghdad, Maynulet and his company came across a black sedan they believed contained militia forces. A chase ensued and Maynulet’s men fired on the vehicle, injuring the driver and a passenger.

“Shortly thereafter,” according to a U.S. Central Command news release, “the wounded driver was shot and killed at close range.”

The man who pulled the trigger was Maynulet. As he did so, according to testimony, there were gunbattles with insurgents in the immediate vicinity, and evacuation was not possible.

In his remarks Thursday, Sennott cited the testimony of two military doctors who said the Iraqi man was still alive when Maynulet shot him. The testimony was based on a videotape of the incident taken by an unmanned aerial vehicle. The video, which was shown in closed court, apparently showed al-Haleji moving while he sat in his car and after he was taken out for possible treatment.

However, a third doctor, who testified Thursday before the hearing concluded, said otherwise.

Maj. Robert P. Knetsche, chief of spine and neurological surgery at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, said it was “impossible” to say for sure, given the distance and angle of the UAV.

Knetsche testified, via a telephone link, that the man “had lethal injuries” before Maynulet approached him, based on a report by the on-scene medic. It stated there were at least two bullet wounds to the base of the back of the man’s skull and that brain matter was on his clothes and in the car.

A person in such a state can still show signs of movement, Knetsche said. However, he added, those are often involuntary movements.

Maynulet, Knetsche said, “didn’t do anything to this guy other than an act of mercy.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now