Stryker brigade soldiers were open to talk of using “drop weapons” to murder Afghan civilians last year because it fit into other discussions about whether they’d need to plant evidence on legitimate killings to justify battlefield decisions, a private who’s pleaded guilty to murdering noncombatants testified today.
“It wasn’t so far-fetched,” Pvt. Jeremy Morlock said in court at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “The idea of drop weapons had always been around. It was a different spin that these weren’t drop weapons to cover your (expletive). These were drop weapons to kill someone.”
Morlock’s on the witness stand today testifying at a pretrial hearing for Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, the Lewis-McChord soldier who allegedly first raised the idea of murdering Afghans in combat-like scenarios during his deployment with the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Gibbs of Billings, Mont., is accused of murdering three Afghans, keeping body parts as war souvenirs and assaulting the private who blew the whistle on misconduct in their platoon. He maintains he’s innocent, and contends the killings took place in legitimate combat.
Morlock today was reluctant to make eye contact with Gibbs. He blinked frequently and appeared uncomfortable for the first part of what became three hours of testimony.
Morlock in March was sentenced to 24 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to his own role in the three murders and agreed to testify against his codefendants.
He painted a picture of Gibbs methodically murdering one civilian in a February 2010 incident.
Morlock said he helped Gibbs pack an Afghan AK-47 before a patrol and kept watch as Gibbs went into a compound and selected a victim.
He said the victim complied with Gibbs’ directions as the staff sergeant placed him, retrieved the AK-47 from his assault pack, fired two rounds at a mud wall, kicked away the AK-47 and then shot the Afghan with his own M4 rifle.
Morlock said they told other soldiers in the platoon that the Afghan shot first, which appeared truthful to their fellow soldiers because of the Afghan weapon laying near the victim.
Gibbs’ pretrial hearing is expected to continue tomorrow. He’s scheduled to face a court-martial in early October.