Ex-Blackwater Guard's Conviction in Iraq Massacre Overturned, Appeals Court Rules
Former Blackwater Worldwide security guard Nick Slatter, (2nd from left) and Donald Ball, (3rd from left) arrive with their lawyers at the U.S. District Court before surrendering to authorities in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Dec. 8, 2008.Chris Detrick / Reuters
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The four men were part of a Blackwater security team that carried the code name Raven 23. Their orders were to secure the route for a diplomatic convoy that was set to travel through western Baghdad in September 2007. When a car bomb exploded in downtown Baghdad, the team set up a protective blockade in the traffic circle of Nisur Square and shot 31 innocent Iraqis in an ensuing firefight, the appeals court said.
Fourteen of the Iraqis, including women and children, died.
Prosecutors said that Slatten, who had taken up a concealed position inside the convoy’s command vehicle with his sniper rifle, “initiated the entire incident” when he fired the first shots “without justifications.”
There were no witnesses during the 2014 trial who said that they saw the guards come under threat and no evidence of a two-sided firefight was ever produced.
Blackwater, which became well-known after the 2007 shooting, was renamed Xe Services in 2009 and Academi in 2011.
NBC News could not immediately reach the four men’s lawyers for comment.
Erik Prince, the founder and former CEO of Blackwater, is the brother of Education Secretary Betsy Devos.
Phil McCausland is an NBC News reporter focused on the rural-urban divide.