Family buries soldier who was killed in confrontation with German police
Stars and Stripes March 27, 2008
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Herb Carmack says it’s advice he wish he didn’t give.
But at the time, returning to the military seemed like the best thing for his nephew, Jeremiah, who re-joined the Army in July.
“He’d been struggling for about three years. The best time of his life was the time in the military,” said the uncle. “We thought it would be good for him to go back.”
On Wednesday, Pvt. Jeremiah Carmack’s family and friends gathered in his western Ohio hometown, where the 30-year-old soldier was buried. Soldiers will get their chance to pay respects on Friday at Schweinfurt’s Conn Barracks chapel.
It’s been two weeks since Carmack, a logistics specialist with the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, was shot to death during a confrontation with a German SWAT team.
How his nephew ended up being gunned down in a field in the remote German town of Altershausen continues to confound Herb Carmack and other members of his family. The image of Jeremiah Carmack, armed with a stolen M-4 carbine and being pursued by German commandos, seems stranger than fiction.
“It’s surreal at this point,” Caryn Carmack, Jeremiah’s stepmother, said in a phone conversation Tuesday.
“We may never get all the answers,” she added. “We don’t know what happened.”
In the days before the confrontation with police, Carmack was in good spirits. The last time Herb Carmack talked with his nephew, he was upbeat about planning a trip home in June to visit family. He also was enthusiastic about the prospects of a new job.
“He called on Sunday and said he had good news,” Herb Carmack recalled. “When he was done with his tour in Germany he said the Army was going to allow him to cross-train to be an MP. Everything seemed to be going good.”
While the transition back into Army life seemed to be going well, there was a dark spot to life in Germany. Carmack thought he had found the love of his life in Anne Frank, his 23-year-old German girlfriend. But the relationship was an emotional roller coaster and eventually things fell apart.
On March 13, Carmack allegedly broke into Frank’s home, waited for her to return home and handcuffed her upon arrival. At some point during the incident, Frank’s mother entered the home and called police. When police arrived, Carmack was gone. A helicopter and SWAT team eventually found him in a nearby field armed with an M-4 smuggled off his Schweinfurt Army post. The SWAT team fired two shots into his chest after he apparently brandished the M-4, police said.
The Army continues to investigate how Carmack obtained the weapon. Meanwhile, German authorities say it could take a couple months to complete a review of the incident.
There were a couple of occasions in January and February when Carmack encountered Frank at local Schweinfurt bars, his uncle said. On those occasions, he told Frank he wanted her to return personal belongings of his, which were still at her Altershausen home. There were confrontations between Jeremiah Carmack and Frank’s male friends during these meetings, but it never escalated into a fight, Herb Carmack said.
If Carmack went to Frank’s home, it may have been to get his belongings, the uncle speculated. If Carmack had an M-4, he must have felt threatened in some way.
“I think there’s more to the story,” Herb Carmack said.
Heinz Schmitt, a police spokesman from Nuremberg, has rejected any suggestion that Frank was somehow responsible for provoking the incident. Frank is yet to make a public statement about the incident. Schmitt said she is not interested in talking with the media.
At the same time, Carmack could showcase a temper on occasion, Herb Carmack acknowledged. During his previous stint in the Army, Carmack was busted down from specialist to private after getting into a fight with a lieutenant. Carmack and the officer were at odds during a training exercise. The disagreement escalated and Carmack punched the officer, Herb Carmack said.
“He thought the guy was incompetent,” the uncle said.
There was no court-martial following the skirmish with the lieutenant and the incident didn’t stop the Army from letting Jeremiah Carmack back in several years later.
“He had to write a letter of apology and they let him back in,” Herb Carmack said.
Stripes reporter Kevin Dougherty contributed to this report.