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Iraq Turns GIs Into Murders – Again

From an axe-grinding Colorado Springs Gazette:

Casualties of War, Part I: The hell of war comes home

DAVE PHILIPPS
2009-07-24

Before the murders started, Anthony Marquez’s mom dialed his sergeant at Fort Carson to warn that her son was poised to kill.

It was February 2006, and the 21-year-old soldier had not been the same since being wounded and coming home from Iraq eight months before. He had violent outbursts and thrashing nightmares. He was devouring pain pills and drinking too much. He always packed a gun.

“It was a dangerous combination. I told them he was a walking time bomb,” said his mother, Teresa Hernandez.

His sergeant told her there was nothing he could do. Then, she said, he started taunting her son, saying things like, “Your mommy called. She says you are going crazy.”

Eight months later, the time bomb exploded when her son used a stun gun to repeatedly shock a small-time drug dealer in Widefield over an ounce of marijuana, then shot him through the heart.

Marquez was the first infantry soldier in his brigade to murder someone after returning from Iraq. But he wasn’t the last.

Marquez’s 3,500-soldier unit — now called the 4th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team — fought in some of the bloodiest places in Iraq, taking the most casualties of any Fort Carson unit by far.

Back home, 10 of its infantrymen have been arrested and accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter since 2006. Others have committed suicide, or tried to.

Almost all those soldiers were kids, too young to buy a beer, when they volunteered for one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds. Many were awarded medals for good conduct.

But in the vicious confusion of battle in Iraq and with no clear enemy, many said training went out the window. Slaughter became a part of life. Soldiers in body armor went back for round after round of battle that would have killed warriors a generation ago. Discipline deteriorated. Soldiers say the torture and killing of Iraqi civilians lurked in the ranks. And when these soldiers came home to Colorado Springs suffering the emotional wounds of combat, soldiers say, some were ignored, some were neglected, some were thrown away and some were punished.

Some kept killing — this time in Colorado Springs.

Many of those soldiers are now behind bars, but their troubles still reach well beyond the walls of their cells — and even beyond the Army. Their unit deployed again in May, this time to one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions, near Khyber Pass.

This month, Fort Carson released a 126-page report by a task force of behavioral-health and Army professionals who looked for common threads in the soldiers’ crimes. They concluded that the intensity of battle, the long-standing stigma against seeking help, and shortcomings in substance-abuse and mental-health treatment may have converged with “negative outcomes,” but more study was needed.

Marquez, who was arrested before the latest programs were created, said he would never have pulled the trigger if he had not gone to Iraq.

“If I was just a guy off the street, I might have hesitated to shoot,” Marquez said this spring as he sat in the Bent County Correctional Facility, where he is serving 30 years. “But after Iraq, it was just natural.”

More killing by more soldiers followed.

In August 2007, Louis Bressler, 24, robbed and shot a soldier he picked up on a street in Colorado Springs.

In December 2007, Bressler and fellow soldiers Bruce Bastien Jr., 21, and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, left the bullet-riddled body of a soldier from their unit on a west-side street.

In May and June 2008, police say Rudolfo Torres-Gandarilla, 20, and Jomar Falu-Vives, 23, drove around with an assault rifle, randomly shooting people.

In September 2008, police say John Needham, 25, beat a former girlfriend to death.

Most of the killers were from a single 500-soldier unit within the brigade called the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, which nicknamed itself the “Lethal Warriors.”

The vast majority of the brigade’s soldiers have not committed crimes, but the number who have is far above the population at large. In a one-year period from the fall of 2007 to the fall of 2008, the murder rate for the 500 Lethal Warriors was 114 times the rate for Colorado Springs.

The battalion is overwhelmingly made up of young men, who, demographically, have the highest murder rate in the United States, but the brigade still has a murder rate 20 times that of young males as a whole.

The killings are only the headline-grabbing tip of a much broader pyramid of crime. Since 2005, the brigade’s returning soldiers have been involved in brawls, beatings, rapes, DUIs, drug deals, domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, kidnapping and suicides…

Some of the news coverage of Fort Carson soldiers involved in violent crimes

    * Aug. 3, 2005, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood shot his wife then killed himself.
    * Oct. 22, 2006, Anthony Marquez, murdered man during botched drug deal.
    * August 2007, Bruce Bastien, Louis Bressler mug and kill Robert James.
    * October 2007, Bastien Bressler and Eastridge mug, stab Erica Ham.
    * November 2007, Bastien Bressler and Eastridge kill Kevin Shields.
    * May 26, 2008, Pfc. Jomar Dionisio Falu-Vives, and Spc. Rodolfo Torres-Gandarilla drive by shooting of Capt. Zachary Zsody.
    * June 6, 2008, Jomar Dionisio Falu-Vives, and Spc. Rodolfo Torres-Gandarilla gunned down two on the street while putting up signs for a garage sale.
    * Aug. 13, 2008, Robert Marko slit throat of Judilianna Lawrence.

This is an absurdly long, lurid article. Which the Gazette felt necessary to follow up with an equally long and lurid sequel.

Meanwhile, if you do the math, things don’t quite add up to the shocking revelation that the Gazette seem to think it is.

We are talking about a unit of 3,500 men. (And is that even the grand total, or just the unit’s official strength? That is to say, have more than 3,500 men passed through the unit over the years. We suspect so.)

It’s hard to tell from the purple prose of the writing, but it would appear that there have been only five actual homicides committed by these men. (The murders are in bold.)

Note how the article does its best to make it sound like all of the victims on their list were murdered.

And never mind of that number at least one of those murders was a crime of passion and another a botched drug deal.

Indeed, as the article mentions throughout, drugs seemed to have played the primary role in most of these soldiers turning to crime.

Even given that five murderers out of 3,500 men is a high ration, it is also just as likely to be a statistically anomaly.

But never mind any of that.

The important thing is to remember that the Iraq War has turned our soldiers into cold-blooded murders.

By the way, note the subtle editorializing in the photo that the Gazette ran with the photo.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Monday, July 27th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

16 Responses to “Iraq Turns GIs Into Murders – Again”

  1. EvaTheFrisbeeDog

    I’d like to see this sort analysis done at high schools. After all, many high schools have 3,500 students and higher rates of violent criminals amongst them. Let’s start with Obama’s old neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. To follow this article’s logic, the Chicago Public Schools are breeding grounds for murderers, rapists, thieves, and drug dealers. Arnie Duncan, our newly installed Sec of Ed, was the warden of all these future inmates.

    • Right on, Eva.

      After we do a study of the disproportionately-high rates of violent crime from those inner-city high schools, why don’t we then do a study on the public housing projects of the top 30 cities in America? Will the good liberals who dare to cast an appaling light on our Armed Forces like they do in this article turn their gaze upon the thousands of thugs who never volunteered to die for you and me?

  2. Liberals Demise

    As a veteran of the war in Vietnam, Republic of: I am surprised that the label “Baby Killer” wasn’t dusted off and trotted out for display against our warriors.
    I never heard of any troops in ‘Nam killing children in a firefight or for thrill kills. But there was the label they hung on our necks collectively.

    I want to know if this combat team is fighting the war single handed? I could swear that there are a lot of other units that were up to their eyeballs in combat just as fierce. Where are the stats from the areas where the other units are located? Or is this just an isolated incident for where the base is located in a bastion of liberalism that would love to do nothing more than tear apart a Army units “Espirit de Corps”?

    • Melly

      Thank you for your service to our county.
      My uncle Bobby was a Green Beret during the early 60s of Vietnam.
      Can’t imagine what old emotions are being stirred up in you.

  3. I want to know if this combat team is fighting the war single handed?

    Exactly, LD. This “reporting” is nothing more than yellow journalism of the worst kind.

    And how about the sensationalizing of this particular brigade’s moniker? To this pansy “reporter”, Dave Philipps, there is much to be gained from analying the name, “Lethal Warriors”. This silly little child has never studied military units across this great country, obviously. These “nicknames” are decided by division-level and brigade-level cadre, free from the decision-making of the average E-1 privates that this article would have you believe.

    The men who committed these street crimes weren’t “naming themselves the Lethal Warriors”, but for the sake of damning the military and its noble missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing is beyond the kind of shameless writing these cowards like Dave Philipps are capable of spewing.

    And Steve, you are exactly right in your numbers analysis. Ft Carson houses the 4th infantry Division, and has 4 brigades of infantry there. Each brigade has around 3,500 men. Besides the 4th ID, it also houses many more support personnel who belong to various other regiments, corps, etc. When I was in the Army, 4th ID was a tank unit (mechanized and armored), and that would account for the higher numbers per unit (tanks need more men on average to operate them). My units at the 82nd, 2nd ID (S Korea), and 101st are light infantry units and don’t have as high a population per unit.

  4. proreason

    More thorough studies have consistenly shown that ex-military personnel are less violent than the general population.

    This story is propaganda, pure and simple.

  5. Right of the People

    This just plays into the hands of our esteemed DHS Secretary that all of us vets are terrorists and killers who need to be watched.

  6. thetimeisright

    First i would like to say thank-you to all of our service men an women that have did a great job keeping the country safe.

    This is just another sample of the government dropping the ball on our families that serve this nation.

    Iam no doctor but this is just what shell shock does. I know the lib,s have an other word for it an it.s just is not the same. May GOD be with our military personal. They need us now.

  7. wardmama4

    Also from an old (ret) Army wife – catch that 1) there are almost no ranks mentioned? Now why is that?!? Perhaps because these slimes were slimes –

    Almost none had serious criminal backgrounds

    before joining the Army – and were kicked out for criminal reasons (most likely reason in a time of war to kick a soldier out) and are now going to use PTSD as a reason to drug, thug and kill – and the Army/War gets the blame and 2) that a couple of the crimes on the list are repeat offenders (but the long list looks so good when condemning a group that you have no interest at all in being tolerant and honest about.)

    I am surprised that the label “Baby Killer” wasn’t dusted off and trotted out for display against our warriors

    I was thinking while I was reading this – omg – It’s the Winter Soldier beginning all over again.

    I can’t believe that they are going to try to put a failed war into the hands of a Dem – that is just so unlike them – but they are soooo stuck in the 60s Make Love Not War/Vietnam War playbook redo – that they can’t help themselves.

  8. wardmama4

    Here is a more detailed story about Marquez
    http://www.denverpost.com/ci_7295077?source=bb

    But here are the highlights –
    1) He was a Specialist while in Iraq
    2) After the IED – Spec. Christopher L. Hoskins shielded Marquez from gunfire (and was KIA)
    3) a fellow soldier told him (so he claims) that the gun fire came from ‘friendly fire’
    4) Marquez also claims to have been ordered to shoot an Iraqi child [Aside here for a moment - but to me it seems really strange that this one SPC would be involved with an IED (proven), an order to shoot a child (his claim) and 'friendly fire' (his claim) all in one tour of Iraq - a bit too coincidental]
    5) Marquez was told Smith sold drugs [but Marquez left with a blue box with 1 oz of marijuana - doesn't sound like a drug dealer to me]
    6) The two people who went with him to Smith’s home did not go in with him, are not identified as soldiers or former soldiers and Marquez only knew them for two weeks
    but this is the biggy for me
    7) If he had not killed Smith – he would have been discharged on Oct. 25, 2006 (three days later). [Stupid, hopped up on drugs (prescribed and/or illegal), PTSD, or something else?!]

    There are a lot of pain killers listed (per Marquez) as was the ‘his sergeant’/'three sergeants’ said ‘your mommy called’ tale of wow – how reliable is that?

    and oh yes – let’s take any group and see out of 3500 if their arrest, murder and suicide rate is 0.002857% – got news for you – the age group 15-24 male is the highest rate for homicide and suicide (which might also factor into this whole little distorted story.)

    Yes indeed Howard – this is yellow journalism of the worst kind.

    Update on the article I listed: Marquez pleaded guilty to felony attempted first-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Roberts got 12 years for attempted robbery and Zayas got 6 years in youth authority for attempted robbery.

  9. canary

    They are coming up with big stories for lenient sentences.

    • pdsand

      Bastien tried that right after he got arrested, tried to sell a load of BS about driving around the streets of Iraq firing AK-47s at will. I’m sure he was trying to say he’d testify at a larger war crimes trial in return for lesser sentences. The only problem was there have never been reports in Iraq of anyone being fired at randomly by Americans. They even briefly opened an investigation based on these claims.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01.....gewanted=2

    • canary

      pdsand, you make a good point. If this was going on, it’s the only thing the news would cover. This does great harm to soldiers with PTSD, as already seen by the Dept Homeland Security. Obama said he would see that every soldier returning would be screened for PTSD, and he can’t possibly mean to help them, when he wanted them to get private insurance, most insurance does not cover well for well mental, dental, vision problems. How the heck did Obama figure people missing body parts and faces to afford their own private health care. Twice he has threatened this. Compassion? After the way Obama goes into such detail of his mother’s fear of being alone when she died of cancer, he let her die alone. She had no family with her. He and his wife should have put her at a hospital near them. He is cold hearted from his fathers sides of the family.
      It’s all about him.

    • Liberals Demise

      Amen, little bird!

  10. pdsand

    So now that Iraq is turning Soldiers into murderers, our veterans are a special kind of criminal who need a special kind of court.

    From the AP via the San Francisco Chronicle:

    “Court to seek get help for vets accused of crimes
    By P. SOLOMON BANDA, Associated Press Writer

    Shaken by five slayings linked to Fort Carson soldiers within 15 months, a state court in Colorado Springs is setting up a Veterans Trauma Court to help soldiers accused of lesser crimes get help.

    Efforts to establish the court were already under way before the Army’s July 15 release of a report that found a possible link between intense combat faced while on deployment in Iraq and 11 slayings allegedly committed by 14 soldiers based at Fort Carson between 2005 an 2008. Most were from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

    Five of those slayings happened in the neighboring city of Colorado Springs from August 2007 to October 2008.

    The court would be similar to other veterans’ courts established across the country, including ones in Buffalo, N.Y., Anchorage, Alaska, Orange County, Calif., and Tulsa, Okla. In those courts, veterans accused of crimes receive reduced sentences or dismissal of charges if they comply with terms of their plea agreement…

    …Kenneth Eastridge, who manned machine guns mounted atop Humvees while on patrol in Iraq’s deadly Sunni Triangle, last year pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder in the December 2007 slaying of Kevin Shields and was sentenced to 10 years in prison…During that hearing, McAteer said Eastridge, who was awarded a Purple Heart, also was diagnosed with PTSD but received an other than honorable discharge from the military and no medical help. He had been charged with felony menacing in March 2006, months before his second deployment in October that year.

    `Eastridge is an awesome soldier,” McAteer said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But if you start to track his behavior, it’s directly related to his injury to his brain.

    “If we would have gotten involved in Kenny’s case early on… he would have never been involved in the homicide. He could have truly benefited from this court.”"

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/.....936D82.DTL

    Beautiful, now we see why all these Soldiers committed crimes, it’s because there weren’t sufficient nanny state programs in place. Also, this piece is so badly done, the first typo is in the headline. This court has been set up apparently in response to a crisis, but how much do you want to bet that this court will still be there 50 years from now? And why can’t this judge just make the same deals with veterans in his regular court? It’ll be the same prosecutors, the same defense attorneys, the same judge, and the same criminal code being applied, so why set up a veteran’s court?




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