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Iraqis Killed Their U.S. Trainers, Probe Finds

THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

June 21, 2006|Hector Becerra and Scott Gold | Times Staff Writers

A military investigation has found that Iraqi troops being trained by American forces killed two California National Guard soldiers two years ago during a patrol north of Baghdad, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

National Guard Spc. Patrick R. McCaffrey Sr., 34, of Tracy and 1st Lt. Andre D. Tyson, 33, of Riverside were killed in June 2004 by the Iraqis as they walked in the farmland outside of the town of Balad, about 50 miles from the capital.

Their deaths were originally attributed to an ambush by insurgents, but after looking into the incident for several months, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command concluded that the soldiers had been killed by supposed allies.

Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, confirmed late Tuesday that a military investigation had found that the two California soldiers were killed by Iraqi security forces.

The Army did not provide any further details.

The circumstances of McCaffrey and Tyson's deaths were first reported in a Los Angeles Times Magazine article in January 2005 based on interviews in Iraq with Alpha Company soldiers and Capt. William C. Turner, the company's commander.

Before his death, McCaffrey had expressed reservations to his father about Iraqi national guard units that he and fellow soldiers had been assigned to train.

In one incident, McCaffrey and others were called out to find the source of a rocket that had hit their base. The soldiers stopped two Iraqis on a motorcycle, one of whom McCaffrey recognized as a man he had been training earlier in the day.

"That episode cut Patrick and all the soldiers right to the quick," his father, Bob McCaffrey, said in a previous interview. "It made them realize that things were not going the way they were supposed to be going. It also made him mad as hell because now they not only had to look in front of them, but they had to look behind as well."

On June 22, 2004, McCaffrey, Tyson and Spc. Bruce Himelright were walking on a narrow asphalt road near Bakr Village with the Iraqi soldiers. Himelright said two of the Iraqis nervously separated themselves from the Americans and their Iraqi interpreter.

A burst of gunfire struck Himelright in the left hip, Tyson in the neck and head and McCaffrey in the legs and unprotected areas of his torso.

Himelright was knocked unconscious by AK-47 armor-piercing rounds that slammed into his Kevlar vest. When he awoke, Himelright climbed a canal wall and saw the bodies of McCaffrey and Tyson.

Tyson, who was unmarried, lived in Riverside and was an assistant manager at a Glendale Costco before being called for active duty in the fall of 2003.

A father of two children, McCaffrey was a manager with a Silicon Valley collision repair company when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took place. McCaffrey quickly enlisted in the National Guard.

McCaffrey joined a National Guard unit with a mission statement that emphasized its engineering support role to "provide mobility, counter-mobility and survivability support to a combat arms brigade."

But soon McCaffrey's unit, like other National Guard units, found itself in combat with insurgents.

Months after the deadly attack, the military declined a request from McCaffrey's father and wife for a formal autopsy report. It remains unclear what happened to the suspects -- including two who returned to Camp Anaconda.

Nadia McCaffrey, McCaffrey's mother, said Tuesday that her son would have wanted the public to know the details of his death. Since then, she has become an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq and has participated in peace rallies and vigils.

"There have been so many lies, and so many things have been hidden," she said. "I have had enough. I have absolutely no doubt that the same thing that happened to Patrick -- being shot by people he was training -- has happened over and over and is still happening today.

"He was killed by the Iraqis that he was training. People in this country need to know that."

Military officials were expected to deliver a copy of the report to Nadia McCaffrey today. She had been advised by Tuesday of the report's conclusions but said she needed to read it fully to determine whether she could learn anything more about her son's death.

"I just need to sit down with it," she said.

Military officials were seen Tuesday evening entering the home of Tyson's mother, Renee Tyson, in Long Beach. She could not be reached for comment.

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Times staff writer Julian E. Barnes in Washington contributed to this report.

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