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Marine tells of killing Iraqi prisoners

The graphic taped interview is played at a hearing on the deaths.

July 11, 2008|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

CAMP PENDLETON — In graphic taped interviews played at a preliminary hearing Thursday, two Marines told how they and a third Marine killed four unarmed prisoners in Iraq.

In one interview played at the hearing for Sgt. Ryan Weemer, Sgt. Jermaine Nelson told an agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service that he and Weemer were ordered by their sergeant to kill the prisoners as the Marines swept through a Fallouja neighborhood on Nov. 9, 2004.

Weemer is charged with murder and dereliction of duty, Nelson faces similar charges, and Sgt. Jose Nazario is charged with manslaughter in federal court in Riverside.

In the interview, Nelson told the investigator that Nazario said, "I'm not doing all this . . . by myself. You're doing one and Weemer is doing one."

Nelson said that he watched in shock as Nazario shot a kneeling prisoner at point-blank range: "He hit the dude in the forehead, the dude went down and there was blood . . . all over [Nazario's] boots."

Weemer then used his service pistol to shoot one of the prisoners, Nelson said. "He shot him and the dude was on the ground and rolling, and [Weemer] was shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting."

Nelson also said in the interview that he saw the faces of the dead prisoners in his dreams.

The case began in 2006 when Weemer, who had left the Marine Corps, was asked by a job interviewer for the Secret Service, "What's the most serious crime you've committed?"

Weemer told the interviewer about shooting the prisoners and said other Marines in Fallouja had done the same.

The Marine Corps recalled Weemer to active duty so he could be charged. Nazario was a probationary Riverside police officer when he was charged.

Nelson and Weemer, in their interviews, said that Nazario ordered the killings after he had radioed a platoon leader to report that they had taken four prisoners and was asked twice, "Are they dead yet?"

The Marines were needed that day to support other Marines sweeping through the insurgent-held city, Weemer said in his interview. He said he and the others were convinced that the prisoners would escape if they were left alone, and that they would then find weapons and go back to fighting the U.S. forces. After seeing Weemer and Nazario shoot prisoners, Nelson said, he lost his reluctance to join in the killings. "I shot my dude," he said.

The hearing officer, at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, will recommend to Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland whether the case should go to court martial, be dropped or be handled through an administrative procedure.


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