Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
In this detail of a courtroom sketch, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, seated at front-right, listens Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, during a preliminary hearing in a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state. Bales is accused of 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder for a pre-dawn attack on two villages in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan in March, 2012. At upper-right is Investigating Officer Col. Lee Deneke, and seated at front-left is Bales' civilian attorney, Emma Scanlan. (AP Photo/Lois Silver)
Testimony: US soldier knew he killed Afghans

First Published Nov 06 2012 07:37 pm • Last Updated Nov 06 2012 07:37 pm

Joint Base Lewis-Mcchord, Wash. • The medic saw Staff Sgt. Robert Bales covered in blood and knew from the pattern of the staining it wasn’t his own. He asked where it came from and where he’d been.

Bales shrugged, the medic, Sgt. 1st Class James Stillwell, testified Tuesday.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

"If I tell you, you guys will have to testify against me," Stillwell quoted him as saying.

The statement was one of many attributed to Bales that suggest he knew what he was doing the night he surrendered after a two-village killing spree in southern Afghanistan, prosecutors say.

The remarks, offered by fellow soldiers testifying for the government Monday and Tuesday, could pose a high hurdle for defense lawyers who have indicated that Bales’ mental health will be a big part of their case. The testimony is part of a preliminary hearing being held to help determine whether the case goes to a court martial.

Defense lawyers have noted that Bales was serving his fourth deployment, and had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as well as a concussive head injury in Iraq. One witness testified Tuesday that he was quick to anger.

The 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., faces 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder in the March 11 attack on the villages of Balandi and Alkozai, which counted nine children among its victims.

One of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the attack prompted the U.S. to halt combat operations for days in the face of protests, and military investigators couldn’t reach the crime scenes for a month.

A prosecutor’s opening statement and witness testimony Monday suggested Bales spent the evening before the massacre at his remote outpost of Camp Belambay with two other soldiers, watching a movie about revenge killings, sharing contraband whiskey from a plastic bottle and discussing an attack that cost one of their comrades his leg.

Within hours, a cape-wearing Bales slipped away from the post and embarked on a killing spree of his own, said the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Jay Morse. He attacked one village then returned to Belambay, where he woke up a colleague and reported what he’d done, Morse said. The colleague testified that he didn’t believe Bales and went back to sleep.


story continues below
story continues below

Bales headed out again, Morse said, and attacked the second village, bringing his death toll to 16 before returning once again in the predawn darkness, bloody and incredulous that his comrades ordered him to surrender his weapons.

His return to the base was captured on surveillance video, Morse said.

Soldiers testified that after being taken into custody, Bales told them, "I thought I was doing the right thing."

"It’s bad, it’s really bad," he reportedly added.

And Stillwell, the medic, said Bales told him that the soldiers at Camp Belambay would appreciate his actions once the fighting season ramped up: "You guys are going to thank me come June."

At another point, Bales remarked, "I guess four was too many" — an apparent reference to the number of family compounds in the attacked villages, Morse said Monday.

Bales was largely calm and compliant when he turned himself in following the massacre, several soldiers testified Tuesday. He followed orders and sometimes sat with his head in his hands, as though the magnitude of what he had done was sinking in, one said.

At one point, Bales made a joke — pointing his finger, in the shape of a gun, at two soldiers guarding him — in what they took as a failed effort to ease the tension.

But Bales also deliberately mangled his laptop, said two soldiers assigned to guard him as he gathered his things.

One of them, Sgt. Ross O’Rourke, testified that he removed the laptop from Bales’ rucksack after the defendant told him he didn’t want to take it with him. O’Rourke said Bales then grabbed the computer and folded the screen back, breaking it.

That didn’t damage the hard drive, O’Rourke said, and investigators still could have retrieved information from the computer. O’Rourke didn’t testify about what information might have been uncovered.

Next Page >


Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.