Sergeant First Class Michael Barbera, 31, faces two counts of
premeditated murder in the evidentiary Article 32 hearing being held
at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
"I thought, 'What the heck is he doing?'" former soldier Kenneth
Katter said of Barbera, his former supervisor. "They posed no
threat. They didn't even have anything in their hands."
The incident occurred in Iraq's Diyala province, when two
cow-herding brothers, aged 14 and 15, came upon Barbera's
eight-member 82nd Airborne Division unit hidden in a palm grove.
The Army investigated the case after some of Barbera's team members
came forward two years after the shooting. Barbera was found to have
committed the killings, but was given a reprimand that carried no
prison time or loss of rank, the Army said.
The case gained notoriety and calls from Congress to reopen it after
the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2012 published the accounts of
fellow soldiers concerned over the limited punishment.
The Article 32 hearing will determine if enough evidence exists to
During the second day of testimony, Katter described seeing a boy
herding cows about 5 yards (meters) away from his unit before Barbera shot him once in the back. Within seconds, Katter said,
another boy, arms raised above his head, was shot once by Barbera in
A second soldier, Dary Finck, testified Barbera told him the
shootings were justified because the unit's position was not to be
compromised. Finck said the statement was undermined by the gunfire
alerting potential enemies to their location.
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Barbera's attorney David Coombs has sought to establish
inconsistencies between witnesses' statements, including where the
boys were hit and how many shots were fired.
The proceeding marks the latest high-profile international murder
case against a U.S. soldier to unfold at the Washington state
Last year, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to
killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians in 2012. Army Sergeant John
Russell pleaded guilty to shooting dead five U.S. service members in
Baghdad in 2009.
Barbera also faces two counts of conduct prejudicial to good order
(Editing by Richard Pullin)
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