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Army closes investigation into allegations of a coverup in 2007 murder-suicide in Iraq

This undated U.S. Army photo released by the family shows Spc. Kamisha Jane Block, 20, of Vidor, Texas, who died in Baghdad, Iraq, Aug. 16, 2007.

BLOCK FAMILY

By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 19, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas — The Army has again closed an investigation into the 2007 death of Spc. Kamisha Block after determining there was no credibility to allegations that records were destroyed in the wake of her killing at the hands of a fellow soldier.

The 20-year-old Block, who deployed with a military police unit to Camp Liberty, Iraq, from Fort Hood, Texas, was shot and killed Aug. 16, 2007 by Staff Sgt. Paul Brandon Norris, who then turned the weapon on himself.

In August 2018, Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, reopened the case after receiving an allegation that an individual had been ordered to destroy medical records related to the murder-suicide investigation, said Chris Grey, spokesman for the command. After an investigation into possible misconduct, he said “no credible information was found to substantiate the allegations and the case was again closed.”

“It is important to point out that this collateral investigation, regardless of the outcome, would not have changed the findings of murder/suicide in the original death investigation,” Grey said.

Shonta Block, the soldier’s sister, said she does not agree with the results of this investigation.

“They’re just lying,” she said. “It’s just whatever they put on a piece of paper.”

Shonta Block was a teenager when her sister was killed. Now 31, she has spent much of her adult life looking into Kamisha Block’s death. She said she’s never found the Army to be honest about the circumstances preceding the shooting, nor willing to hold accountable the leadership that she believes is responsible for not protecting her sister.

Kamisha Block and Norris were members of the 401st Military Police Company. Because of his higher rank and because Norris was separated, but still married, a relationship between the two was outlawed under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Others in the unit were aware of the relationship before the deployment and the volatile turn it took once they arrived in Iraq, Shonta Block said.

Following the murder, the two soldiers who were sent to deliver the news of Kamisha’s death to the Block family at their home in Vidor, Texas, said she died from one gunshot to the chest from friendly fire. After receiving the body at a local funeral home, the family realized they had not been told the truth. Kamisha Block had been shot five times, her sister said.

Since then, the family has used every avenue that they could find to gather information and determine why the soldiers were allowed to interact, despite previous counseling from the chain of command to end the relationship.

Because the Army is investigating itself in the matter, Shonta Block said she doesn’t believe she’ll ever get the truth, including whether medical records were destroyed.

“How are we going to get a fair investigation?” she asked. “The constitution states justice for all citizens, the military isn’t above the law. Officers must be held accountable.”

She said she contacted Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who recommended she find a lawmaker on the Senate Armed Services Committee to help gather information. After writing to several members, Shonta Block said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., offered support.

With the help from Duckworth, an Army veteran, Block has been promised a redacted copy of the report from the latest investigation, which she’s been told is about 2,000 pages. She also was promised a less redacted copy of the report of the original investigation. The family has less than half of the 1,200-page original report because such a heavy-handed approach was taken in restricting the release of information.

A staff member in Duckworth’s office confirmed, on the condition of anonymity, that the senator is working closely with Cornyn’s office to compile documentation. Once received, Block said she hopes Duckworth can help get a congressional hearing to look into the investigation.

“No matter how old a case is, or the color of your skin, the system is supposed to be fair and just, yet it is broken,” she said.

thayer.rose@stripes.com
Twitter: @Rose_Lori
 

Spc. Kamisha Block was buried in her hometown of Vidor, Texas. Twelve years after she was murdered by a fellow soldier at Camp Liberty, Iraq, the Army has reopened the investigation into her death.
ROSE L. THAYER/STARS AND STRIPES