US soldier charged with murders at Iraq combat stress clinic
Commanding officers had determined that the sergeant was a potential danger to himself or others.
A US Army sergeant on his third deployment in Iraq has been charged with killing five service people after opening fire at the mental health clinic where he was being treated for combat stress, US military officials said Tuesday.Skip to next paragraph
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Maj. Gen. David Perkins said Sgt. John M. Russell, a communications specialist with the 54th Engineering Battalion, had been taken into custody by military police after the shooting yesterday at Camp Liberty on the outskirts of Baghdad. Two staff officers from an Army reserve unit in Indianapolis working at the clinic and three other soldiers were killed.
The attack, the deadliest of its kind in this war, took place at a heavily fortified base camp complex near the airport that has essentially been sealed off from Iraqis to reduce threats to US soldiers.
General Perkins said investigations were ongoing but Sergeant Russell had been deemed to be enough of a threat to either himself or others that his superior officers had previously confiscated his weapon.
"Suffice to say by his actions or what he had said his chain of command was concerned enough that 1. he was in a formalized counseling process and going for mental health assistance and number 2. there was concern he should not have a weapon, so again the chain of command confiscated his weapon which is something that is not done routinely to average soldiers," Perkins told reporters.
Confiscating the weapon of a noncommissioned officer in charge of other soldiers would be an extremely serious step. Russell, from Sherman, Texas, has served previous deployments in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Perkins said Russell was charged with five counts of murder and one of aggravated assault. The sergeant was believed to have first gotten into a fight at the clinic where he was being treated and then returned with someone else's weapon.
Russell referred to counseling a week ago