Sailor: I watched Marines kill Iraqi civilian CNN Sept 6th
CAMP PENDLETON, California (AP) -- A Navy corpsman testified Friday that Marines in his patrol seized an Iraqi civilian from his home, threw him into a hole and put at least 10 bullets in his head after growing frustrated in their search for an insurgent.
"I was shocked and I felt sick to my stomach," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos.
Bacos, a medic who had been on patrol with the squad, was charged along with seven Marines in the slaying of Hashim Ibrahim Awad last spring in the town of Hamdaniya. But Bacos struck a deal with prosecutors under which he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy and agreed to testify Friday at his court-martial about what he saw.
"I knew what we were doing was wrong," Bacos testified. "I knew we were doing something wrong and I tried to say something."
Bacos, 21, was the first of the servicemen to be court-martialed. The seven others could get up to life in prison.
Prosecutors have said that the servicemen killed Awad out of frustration and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle and a shovel by the body to make it look as if he had been caught digging a hole for a roadside bomb.
Bacos testified that the squad entered Hamdaniya on April 26 while searching for a known insurgent who had been captured three times, then released. Squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins was "just mad that we kept letting him go and he was a known terrorist," Bacos said.
The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed Awad, according to the testimony.
Bacos said the squad had intended to get someone else if they did not capture the insurgent, then stage a firefight to make it appear they had found an Iraqi planting a roadside bomb.
Awad, 52, was taken from the home with his feet and hands bound, then placed in a hole, Bacos said. Bacos said he asked the Marines to let Awad go, but Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda told him in crude terms that he was being weak and should stop protesting.
Bacos said Hutchins fired three rounds into the man's head, then Cpl. Trent Thomas fired seven to 10 more rounds into his head.
Bacos said Hutchins called in to a command center and reported the squad had seen a man digging a hole and wanted permission to fire at him.
Bacos was recently transferred from Camp Pendleton, where the Marines have been held, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for his own safety.
Military prosecutors had charged Bacos under the theory that he did nothing to stop the alleged crime. In return for his testimony, murder charges and other counts against him were dropped. He was scheduled to be sentenced later Friday.
Along with Magincalda, Hutchins and Thomas, the other Marines charged are: Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Pfc. John J. Jodka, Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr., and Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington.
David Brahms, Pennington's lawyer, said Bacos' account will be subjected to intense scrutiny. "This is just one guy who is going to tell the story as he sees it," Brahms said.
Former Army prosecutor Tom Umberg suggested that others might follow Bacos' lead and strike similar plea bargains.
"You don't want to be the last guy standing. The first guy gets the best deal," he said.
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