A U.S. Army tank company commander accused of murdering a man in Iraq fatally shot him out of pity for his injuries, a witness testified Wednesday at hearings to determine whether he should face a court-martial.
Capt. Rogelio Maynulet of Chicago is accused of killing a driver for militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr while on patrol May 21 near Kufa, south of Baghdad. He has denied the charges of murder and dereliction of duty.
His unit spotted a speeding sedan believed to be carrying al-Sadr militiamen, and a chase ensued. U.S. soldiers fired shots at the vehicle, wounding the driver and a passenger.
Military prosecutors presented statements Wednesday made to investigators by a subordinate, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin, who said Maynulet told him that “they pulled out the driver” and that part of his skull had been blown away.
“Nothing could be done for him, and at that point Captain Maynulet told you he stepped back and shot him in the base of the neck or back of the head,” said the prosecutor, Capt. Daniel Sennott, quoting Cremin’s earlier statement.
Cremin confirmed the statement. At another point, he described the act as a mercy killing.
‘The compassionate response’
“It was something he didn’t want to do, but it was the compassionate response. It was definitely the human response,” Cremin said.
Cremin testified that it was impossible to transport the injured man to get medical care, because “it would have compromised the lives of the soldiers.”
Prosecutors cited other incidents in which, they maintained, Maynulet broke military rules.
They said he had carried a non-regulation weapon and once broke into an Iraqi police station to retrieve an identification card for a civilian contractor.
However, several witnesses, including officers and enlisted soldiers who served with him, described Maynulet as a calm man who was willing to help Iraqis.
The driver Maynulet is accused of killing was identified by relatives as Karim Hassan, 36. The family does not dispute that he was working for al-Sadr.
An unmanned military aircraft caught the killing on tape, and that recording was introduced into evidence Wednesday, said Maj. Michael Indovina, a spokesman for the military.
Reporters were asked to leave as an expert witness in neurosurgery viewed the tape because the hearing officer, Maj. Michael J. Fadden, said it might show the capabilities of U.S. technology in Iraq.
Soldier confident charges would be dropped
The so-called Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a U.S. grand jury investigation, is scheduled to end Friday. No immediate decision is expected on a court-martial.
At the last round of hearings in July, Maynulet’s former commander, Col. Michael Ryan, testified that he was an “excellent officer” who was “special, trustworthy and honest.” Maynulet said he was confident that the charges would be dropped.
Maynulet’s command of his tank company was suspended May 25, but he remains with his unit, serving on the division’s planning staff.