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Report details soldier's unraveling

October 21, 2009|Associated Press

BAGHDAD — An American soldier accused of killing five fellow troops at a counseling center in Iraq had been unraveling for nearly two weeks but the U.S. military lacked clear procedures to monitor him or deal with the deadly shooting spree once it began to unfold, a military report found.

The shooting at a U.S. base in Baghdad in May was the deadliest case of U.S. soldier-on-soldier violence in the six-year Iraq war. Sgt. John M. Russell, 44, was arrested and is the only person charged in the incident.

The 325-page report, released Friday and obtained by the Associated Press on Tuesday, included detailed witness statements and describes a soldier less than two months from ending his third deployment who began to show obvious signs of unraveling before the shootings.

In the days leading up to the incident, many of Russell's fellow soldiers had noticed that his behavior appeared to be "deteriorating," the report states.

According to one statement, Russell, who spent one of his tours in the western city of Ramadi during the height of the conflict there, said he was "sick and tired of life and believed everyone hated him."

Russell was on his fourth visit to the clinic May 11 when the appointment was cut short because he became "verbally noncompliant," the report states. Military police declined to arrest him and ordered him returned to his unit.

Less than an hour later, the report says, he managed to grab a loaded M-16 rifle from a fellow soldier before going back to the counseling facility.

Although names have been removed from the report, it refers to the person taken into custody as well as his unit, the 54th Engineer Battalion.

A criminal investigation by the military is ongoing.

Russell is in pretrial confinement at the Butner Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., a military spokesman said. He was found to be incapable of assisting in his own defense and is being treated so he can participate in a court-martial.

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