The Army soldier who allegedly killed 16 Afghan villagers in a shooting spree was identified Friday as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, according to a U.S. official.
The suspect was being flown to a U.S. military prison Friday to await possible criminal charges, the Pentagon said earlier in the day.
Navy Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, would not immediately identify the military prison, citing security concerns. But the U.S. official said later that Bales was being flown from Kuwait to a military detention center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Bales, a 38-year-old father of two, served three tours in Iraq and was badly injured there before being deployed in December to Afghanistan, according to his attorney. It was his fourth deployment in 10 years.
The attorney, John Henry Browne, said Thursday night that the soldier is “highly decorated” and suffered a concussion in Iraq as well as an injury that resulted in the loss of part of his foot.
Browne said his client, now known to be Bales, had been told after his Iraq service that he would not be deployed to a war zone again.
“He and his family were not happy” when he got word he was going to Afghanistan, the lawyer said.
A decorated soldier who grew up in the Midwest, the man enlisted within a week of the terrorist attacks of 2001, he said.
“He felt it was his duty to stand up for the United States,” said [his lawyer] Mr. Browne, who has handled many high-profile cases in the Northwest, including the recent defense of the teenage fugitive known as the Barefoot Bandit, Colton Harris-Moore.
Mr. Browne, who said he met with “a very large group of family members” on Wednesday and spoke with the soldier by telephone on Thursday, said the man had “been decorated many, many times. He’s been to Iraq twice. He was injured twice and he was deployed back to Afghanistan. He is a career military man.”
He added, “He was injured in Iraq in two places on his body, so he wasn’t certain he was healthy enough to go back, physically.”
Mr. Browne said the soldier suffered a concussion during a vehicle rollover accident caused by a roadside bomb. He also lost part of a foot in another episode.
Please don’t read this as me excusing Sgt. Bales for what he (allegedly) did. It is inexcusable, and he must pay for his crime, if he is found guilty.
But think: here is a man — a father of two little children — who has served three tours of duty in a war zone, who was badly injured on his last tour, and who was promised that he wouldn’t have to go back into the war zone again. What kind of military sends a man like that back into combat? What kind of civilian government allows its soldiers to be treated that way?
There are a bunch of dead Afghan children, and two American children who will probably lose their father to prison. I may be wrong about this, but I find it hard to believe that even if Sgt. Bales is guilty of this massacre, that it was entirely his fault.
We should leave, and we should leave right now.