Ex-soldier shot by deputy had served in hard-hit JBLM Stryker battalion

By THE (TACOMA, WASH.) NEWS TRIBUNE Published: March 24, 2014

The Army veteran shot to death late Friday by a Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy had fought in Afghanistan with a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion that experienced more fatal casualties than any other comparable unit.

Brian McLeod, 25, left the Army soon after his 2009-10 deployment with the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, said his brother, Aaron Coombs.

After the mission, McLeod sometimes appeared depressed to people who knew him well.

“You could tell he was a different person” after he came home, Coombs said. “He’d just get real quiet, real distant.”

McLeod’s death stunned his friends and family around Tacoma, Wash., many of whom have known him and his wife, Katie, since high school. Friends held a vigil in University Place in the former soldier’s memory on Sunday night.

Katie McLeod declined to comment Monday. They’ve been together since they were teenagers.

“That was his first love,” Coombs said.

McLeod was shot by University Place police officer J Sousley when the officer and another from Fircrest responded to a report of a fight at an apartment in the 9800 Block of 52nd Street West.

A 24-year-old friend of McLeod’s reportedly came out of the apartment and laid down on the ground. McLeod then allegedly emerged from the apartment carrying a shotgun.

It appeared to the deputies that McLeod raised the weapon, Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. Sousley, 42, remains on paid leave while the department investigates the shooting.

“I am saddened by the death of a man who served our country. And I am grateful that my deputy and the Fircrest officer were not killed by a shotgun blast,” Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor said Monday.

The incident was Sousley’s first officer-involved shooting in his 19-year career, Troyer said.

McLeod’s family is conducting its own investigation into the shooting. University Place attorney Karl Williams has talked to witnesses on behalf of the McLeods.

“Some of the individuals I have interviewed have said it may not be the same as it was indicated in the first report,” Williams said.

He declined to provide more information. Other witnesses declined to talk about the shooting with The (Tacoma) News Tribune at the family’s request.

Coombs described his brother as in between jobs. McLeod’s friend who was with him late Friday also served in the Lewis-McChord Stryker battalion on its Afghanistan tour, according to friends and family.

“They were best friends through combat,” Coombs said.

Coombs, 30, said he’d see McLeod a few times a month and did not notice his condition worsening lately, though it appeared to him that McLeod was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

McLeod was not getting treatment for the condition, as far as Coombs knew.

Troyer said the officers who arrived at the scene did not have time to assess McLeod’s mental health while he was holding the gun.

“If he suffers from PTSD, the time to figure out that problem isn’t midnight with a shotgun,” Troyer said.

Coombs countered, “Even if he was losing his mind, PTSD is not rabies. You don’t have to shoot him.”

The Stryker battalion that McLeod served in belonged to the Lewis-McChord’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. Theirs was the first Stryker brigade to fight in Afghanistan when it hit the ground there in July 2009.

The battalion lost 21 soldiers out of a force of about 700. Seven of them were killed in a single blast under a Stryker on Oct. 27, 2009.

McLeod served in the battalion’s A Company, which lost its commander, Capt. John Hallett, to a bomb attack a month after arriving in Afghanistan.

McLeod’s friends from the Stryker battalion have been mourning him on social media for the past two days, posting pictures of them with him in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

“He was a great soldier, and I always knew him to be a very humble and relatively quiet person, never being the impulsive type,” Sgt. Alexander Coll wrote on The News Tribune’s website. “I’m shocked and saddened by his death. It is unfortunate to see a fellow soldier who survived combat die on the very soil he took and oath to defend.”


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