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Army investigation found problems with soldier who became Dallas police killer

Micah Johnson.

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By TERRI LANGFORD | The Dallas Morning News | Published: July 30, 2016

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — Two years before Micah Johnson gunned down five police officers in Dallas, an Army investigation into his service in Afghanistan revealed disquieting problems, including a grenade hidden in his barracks room.

The 2014 investigation stemmed from a female soldier’s complaint that he stole her underwear and sexually harassed her. The Army released a heavily redacted version of the investigative report Friday evening.

Johnson’s activities in Afghanistan have raised questions about his mental health and whether the Army acted appropriately during his service and when he returned home. A Mesquite police report obtained by The Dallas Morning News on Friday said Johnson was acting mentally unstable in 2011, before he deployed.

Friends and family have described a young man who came back from war withdrawn, isolated and fixated with guns. He went on to commit one of the deadliest attacks on law-enforcement officers in the last century.

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The report released Friday adds new details to the portrait of a mass killer, noting that at least one of his fellow soldiers described him as a loner. And the allegations against him were serious enough that the Army took away his weapons.

But the 27-page document also leaves many questions unanswered, including what the investigator recommended and what steps, if any, Johnson’s commanders took after receiving the report.

The military investigator, whose name was not released, found that Johnson had stolen the underwear from the woman’s laundry bag. But that incident did not constitute sexual harassment under Army rules, he wrote.

Johnson’s comments and Facebook messages, however, “would be considered sexual harassment by the Reasonable Person Standard,” according to the report. The offending comments were redacted from the Army’s report.

After the investigation, Johnson was removed from his unit and functionally forced out of the Army, according to his former lawyer. But military records show he was not formally discharged and received an honorable release from active duty.

A spokeswoman for the Army wrote in an email that a review of Johnson’s records “has not identified any documented acts of violence.”

The female soldier who made the sexual harassment complaint referred questions about the report to her Army-appointed lawyer, who declined to comment, as did Gilbert Fischbach, an ex-Army sergeant who has recently served as her spokesman.

Johnson’s family could not be reached, and his former military lawyer said he could not comment and added in a recorded message that he was under investigation by the military for previously talking to the media.

Some soldiers who knew Johnson and the female soldier had previously told The News they believed the two had been romantically involved. But the Army’s report says that both Johnson and the victim denied an intimate relationship, and agreed that their close friendship had ended after an argument the month before the incident.

Hours after the underwear was reported missing on May 1, 2014, Johnson's superiors ordered a "health and welfare inspection,” which are routinely done in soldiers’ work or living spaces for safety reasons and to uncover contraband.

Some of the unit’s leaders began searching rooms. In Johnson’s, they found at least one pair of women’s underwear under his mattress. The report said that Johnson tried to hide the underwear and later disposed of several pairs in a nearby dumpster. The victim identified the recovered underwear as hers.

Johnson gave two different stories, according to the investigator’s report. Johnson said the panties were from someone he had dated some years previously at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. When questioned again, he said he got the underwear from a civilian who worked at a barbershop in Afghanistan.

John P. Galligan, a criminal defense attorney based near Fort Hood, said he was troubled by parts of the investigation. He said it appears the routine inspection may have been improper in a criminal probe, and questioned whether Johnson was ever read his rights under Article 31 -- the military's equivalent of the Miranda warning.

Johnson was transferred to Bagram Air Base as a result of the female soldier’s theft accusation. Among belongings he left behind was a sleeping bag that turned out to contain an unauthorized grenade and medicine belonging to another soldier.

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