HEIDELBERG, Germany — Why a young V Corps soldier ended up dead Monday in a Heidelberg hospital after a bouncer threw him out of a bar on New Year’s Eve remains a mystery to German authorities investigating the case, police said Thursday.

German and U.S. military police are seeking anyone who might have seen how Spc. Rusty Jones, 21, ended up with head injuries, lying unconscious on a snowy street in the city’s old town.

Did he fall? Was he kicked or beaten? Did he have some unknown, pre-existing medical problem?

Jones was found lying unconscious in the Untere Strasse, near the I-Punkt bar at about 1 a.m. Dec. 31, authorities said, after a New Year’s Eve celebration that ended with Jones’ eviction from the bar and another soldier’s fistfight with the bouncer who threw Jones out.

German authorities, who investigate all American deaths that occur in their country except for those of servicemembers on U.S. facilities, said there are several unusual and difficult aspects about the case.

No one, they said, saw Jones fall. They said just one witness reported seeing Jones being attacked as he lay on the ground, either being kicked or beaten with shoes. And that was Jones’ friend, a 26-year-old, fellow Headquarters and Headquarters Company, V Corps soldier.

But that soldier, who was not identified, was highly intoxicated, as was Jones, they said. And he was fighting with the I-Punkt bouncer at the time, police said, and could not have seen what he thought he had.

“He was the witness who told us that Jones was beaten, but that can’t be true,” said Harald Kurzer, a Heidelberg police spokesman. “We don’t believe that.

“We have some doubts. All the [other] witnesses outside the I-Punkt saw nothing. All the other witnesses say nothing about anyone [attacking] Jones.”

Kurzer said police believe the soldier mistook the people who rushed to Jones’ side when they saw him lying on the street for people attacking his friend.

According to Kurzer, Jones’ friend was in the men’s room when Jones got into a dispute with some other patrons.

“Mr. Jones had some trouble with some other guests, but we don’t know their names,” he said.

A bouncer in the bar told Jones to leave. “He won’t say why. He has a lawyer,” said police investigator Wolfgang Graf.

When Jones declined to leave, the bouncer escorted him to the door, Kurzer said.

“He pressed him outside. We don’t know if Jones beat the [bouncer]. We don’t know if the guard gave him a shove or let him go,” Kurzer said.

At that point, in Kurzer’s account, the friend returned from the men’s room, saw that Jones was being put outside and, depending on one’s point of view, either came to his friend’s aid or attacked the bouncer.

Perhaps seconds later, Jones was lying unconscious, Kurzer said, and 10 or 15 people gathered around him. Jones was taken to a Heidelberg hospital and died a week later.

Police are hoping that an autopsy might provide more information and clear up another puzzling factor in Jones’ case: According to Kurzer, Jones’ head wound was small, with minimal bleeding — yet his brain damage was severe. Perhaps, he said, the autopsy will show some medical problem actually caused Jones’ death, such as a brain anomaly.

Police are asking potential witnesses to call Heidelberg police at 06221-99-2421, or the German Liaison Officer to the U.S. Military Police at Patrick Henry Village at 06221-76 64 14.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

Stripes in 7

around the web

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