A Stryker soldier who has confessed to helping murder three Afghans last year testified today that one of his subordinates helped plan a killing and “didn’t object” when they carried out one of their schemes.
Confessed killer Spc. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, said in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord that Pfc. Andrew Holmes of Boise was a willing participant in conversations about how they could kill an Afghan civilian in such a way that it appeared to be legitimate combat. They’d employ an off-the-books grenade that Morlock received from platoon mate Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, Morlock said.
“The way you’d pitch it was we had to fire on this guy because he had a weapon,” Morlock said.
Holmes is in court today for a pretrial hearing. He faces life in prison if he’s convicted of murder at a court-martial some time this summer.
Morlock’s testimony is only his second appearance in court describing murders an alleged “kill team” in the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division carried out during its deployment to southern Afghanistan last year. Five soldiers were charged with murder, and seven others from their platoon have been charged with other misconduct.
Morlock in March pleaded guilty to his part in the killings and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Holmes was the youngest soldier in the group to face murder charges. Morlock said he was Holmes’ team leader, but described their relationship as friendly. Morlock said he regarded Holmes as “a little brother.”
Morlock also said he didn’t describe the killing that allegedly involved Holmes when he first spoke to criminal investigators because he wanted to protect the soldier from Idaho.
Holmes denies that he knowingly participated in murder. He contends he shot at an Afghan after Morlock yelled “fire” as a man approached them during a patrol in January 2010.
Holmes’ attorney is expected to cross-examine Morlock this morning.