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Suspect in Afghanistan shootings identified

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two, is suspected in the massacre of 16 civilians in Afghanistan. A neighbor describes him as 'happy' and 'gentle.'

March 17, 2012|By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

By the time he deployed to Afghanistan on Dec. 3 — his first combat tour in Afghanistan after three in Iraq — he had already been assured that his war deployments were over, and he was hoping to become a military recruiter. But the new assignment came up quickly without notice, and on Feb. 1 Bales was sent to support a village security operation being conducted by special forces troops.

What happened there is the subject of an Army Criminal Investigation Division inquiry that could, Army officials have said, lead to the death penalty.

News reports, quoting unnamed U.S. officials, have suggested that domestic problems, alcohol and stress were probably factors in the March 11 nighttime attack.

Browne strongly denied that Bales was having any trouble in his marriage, but said it would be understandable to be under stress in a small military outpost in the midst of war in southern Afghanistan.

Compounding that, he said, was a serious injury sustained by one of Bales' fellow soldiers the day before the shootings. "His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him," he told the Associated Press.

Holland said that the last time she saw Bales, he and his wife had come in with the children for pizza at the restaurant where she works.

"It was good," she said. "They came in for a family dinner, everybody happy."

kim.murphy@latimes.com

Times staff writers Stephen Ceasar, Dalina Castellanos and Rick Rojas in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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