Sergeant set for Article 32 in 2009 killings at Camp Liberty
WASHINGTON — The soldier accused of carrying out the deadliest case of fratricide in the Iraq War will be in court Monday for the military’s version of a grand jury.
In May 2009, Army Sgt. John Russell allegedly stole a gun, barged into a combat stress clinic in Baghdad and opened fire, killing five servicemembers and wounding two others. He is charged with five counts of premeditated murder, two counts of premeditated attempted murder and one count of assault.
The Article 32 hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to prosecute him will be held at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where Russell is in pre-trial confinement.
Russell, who was 44 at the time, was serving with the 54th Engineer Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany, and was on his third deployment. He was reportedly suicidal, and on the day of the shooting incident, he had gone for the fourth time to the stress clinic at Camp Liberty.
According to an Army investigation, Russell was kicked out of the clinic because he was “verbally noncompliant” and the military police had to be called. They turned him over to a soldier in his unit, but Russell stole the soldier’s M-16 rifle and vehicle and returned to the stress clinic where he started shooting, the Army alleges.
Two staff members at the clinic and three patients were killed.
The incident kicked off an investigation into the Army’s mental health procedures in Iraq, and the resulting 325-page report revealed a litany of problems with how units there treat at-risk soldiers.
Russell’s unit “admitted they lack the fundamental skills to deal with behavioral health issues,” and had no formal policies or procedures to guide them, according to the report.