Soldier accused in stress clinic slayings is back in U.S.
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Germany-based soldier accused of killing five servicemembers at Baghdad’s Camp Liberty in May has been transferred from Kuwait to Butner Federal Medical Center in North Carolina, according to the Army.
Sgt. John M. Russell was transferred from pre-trial confinement because a panel of doctors determined he is “currently unable to cooperate intelligently in his own defense,” according to a news release from I Corps in Fort Lewis, Wash.
Russell will be evaluated in four months to see if he can participate in his own defense, said Maj. Mike Garcia, a spokesman for I Corps. If he is able, the court-martial will go forward. If not, he will continue to be treated, Garcia said.
Russell, who was with the 54th Engineer Battalion out of Bamberg, Germany, is accused of stealing a weapon, walking into a combat stress clinic and opening fire. He is charged with premeditated murder and aggravated assault in connection with the incident.
An investigation prompted by the shooting found widespread institutional failures in implementing Multi-National Force-Iraq’s mental health policy at the brigade and battalion level.
The report found the 54th Engineer Battalion did not have any formal policies or procedures for behavioral health treatment, relying heavily on the expertise of the battalion chaplain, the report said.
Russell’s first sergeant said in the report, “What I don’t understand is from the time a soldier has been identified that they may have behavioral health problems what do you really do with them?”
The report also found that there were no procedures for monitoring soldiers “at risk” of committing suicide.
“Multi-National Corps-Iraq has already implemented several of the investigation’s recommendations to include a command-wide review of behavioral health care services, updates to all suicide-prevention programs, training and appointing two behavioral health advocates per battalion, and executing new procedures for dealing with servicemembers attempting and/or threatening suicide,” said MNC-I spokesman Lt. Col. David Patterson.