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The Nation

2 Marines Held in Suspected Parachute Sabotage That Injured 3

January 31, 2003|From Times Wire Services

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Two Marines have been arrested in the suspected sabotage of more than a dozen parachutes last fall, officials said Thursday. Three jumpers were slightly injured when they were forced to use their reserve chutes.

Lance Cpl. Antoine Boykins, 21, of Baltimore and Lance Cpl. Julian Ramirez, 25, of Los Angeles, both members of the 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group, were detained this week, the officials said.

No charges have been filed, but several people involved in the case, including a civilian lawyer retained by Ramirez, said they thought it likely the two would be accused of several offenses, the most serious being attempted murder.

The two apparently were angry with their commanding officer for bringing minor but formal disciplinary charges against them in "nonjudicial proceedings," a Marine official at Camp Lejeune said.

Boykins and Ramirez were detained after a four-month investigation. In the Sept. 21 incident, three Marines parachuting at Camp Lejeune were slightly hurt when they jumped from a C-17 military cargo plane at 1,250 feet, only to have their parachutes fail, with the 20-foot cords flailing in the wind without a canopy.

The three survived by deploying their reserve parachutes, which hadn't been tampered with.

All three were from the same unit as Boykins and Ramirez, a platoon that specializes in air delivery of cargo. The parachutes of two other Marines who jumped in the five-man "stick" operated normally.

A subsequent investigation found that the canopy cords had been severed on 13 parachutes, most of them still in a warehouse. Because the parachutes had been kept under lock and key, and because the cords had been cut so deftly that a routine inspection wouldn't have caught the problem, the matter from the beginning was seen as an inside job.

Suspicion turned to Boykins after his fingerprints were lifted by investigators from a cord on one of the sabotaged parachutes, an official said. His print also was found on a Post-It note that listed the 13 parachutes that had been cut, this official added.

On Tuesday afternoon, military investigators took Boykins into custody. Seeing the arrest, Ramirez left the area and changed into civilian clothes, apparently to flee, a Marine official said.

Richard McNeil, a lawyer representing Ramirez, disputed that assertion, saying that Ramirez simply wanted to go see a lawyer. "Our understanding is that he did switch into civilian clothes, but not with the intent to flee," he said.

Boykins has confessed and accused Ramirez of working with him, Marine officials said. "Boykins has made admissions implicating himself and Ramirez," one said. Boykins hasn't retained a lawyer or had one appointed to represent him, officials said.

Ramirez denies being involved, McNeil said.

One Marine official noted that Boykins has accused Ramirez of being "the primary perpetrator," but said that has little credibility because of false statements Boykins made earlier in the investigation.

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