Questions linger after soldier is killed during standoff with German police
Stars and Stripes March 16, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — The soldier killed during a standoff with Germany police late Thursday was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade, according to multiple members of the brigade.
Although the Army did not release the soldier’s identity Saturday — pending notification of next of kin — officials confirmed that the soldier did not participate in his unit’s recent deployment to Iraq.
Around 11 p.m. Thursday, German police fatally shot the 30-year-old soldier during a confrontation in which authorities say the soldier was armed with an Army M-4 assault rifle. German police said the soldier had attempted to take his ex-girlfriend hostage in Altershausen, a small village northeast of Schweinfurt.
German police also say the soldier had the gun legally during the day but somehow managed to carry the weapon off post.
Army officials would not confirm Saturday whether that was the case. However, a group of Dagger Brigade soldiers were training last week in Schweinfurt for the Expert Infantryman Badge.
“It’s an ongoing investigation. We’re working closely with the Army [Criminal Investigation Command] and German authorities,” said Maj. Eric Stetson, a Dagger Brigade spokesman.
“Obviously the brigade leadership is very concerned about the situation.”
Soldiers at 1-18’s barracks declined to comment Saturday on the case and directed inquiries to the brigade spokesman.
At the home of the soldier’s ex-girlfriend, about 20 miles from Schweinfurt, the driveway was filled with cars. Though family members appeared to be at home, no one answered the door bell.
Around town in Schweinfurt Friday night, soldiers seemed to have little information about the shooting or the soldier involved. What troubled many, though, was that the soldier might have had access to a weapon that should have been secured.
“How does he get that weapon? No excuse. I don’t know how that happens,” said a soldier at the Rock Corner, a local bar.
The group of soldiers, asking not to be identified, said it would be impossible to carry a weapon off in their unit.
Other soldiers, however, said a person intent on stealing a weapon will find a way, particularly during training. A person could just walk off into the woods, said one Dagger Brigade officer, who also asked not to be identified.
“That’s what everyone wants to know. How did he get that weapon?” the officer said.
Spc. Dan Stephens, a Dagger Brigade soldier, agreed that a soldier with bad intentions could steal weaponry. “Too easy,” he said.
According to German authorities, the soldier was killed in a farmer’s field by a commando unit. Police said the soldier was shot after he brandished the M-4.
A couple of hours earlier, the soldier had apparently broken a basement window at the home of his former girlfriend, a 23-year-old identified neighbors as Anne Frank.
Police said the soldier bound the woman’s hands, but she managed to escape after her mother entered the room.
The soldier fled but police tracked him down at a nearby field. He died several hours later at a Schweinfurt hospital.
Karl Heinz-Schmidt, a police spokesman, said Friday there was no investigation planned into the police’s action.
Stephens said he doesn’t know anything about the soldier or what could possibly have prompted him to take such action. But he questioned the aggressive course taken by police.
“Overkill if you ask me,” he said. “They shot him down in a field? What about nonlethal force?”