JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — U.S. Army Sgt. John Russell pleaded guilty Monday to the second-degree murder of five fellow service members at a mental health clinic in Iraq in 2009 after the government agreed to not seek the death penalty.
Russell, 48, was dispassionate and matter-of-fact as he gave his first personal account of his methodical march with an M-16 rifle through the Camp Liberty combat stress center -- the only mass killing of Americans by a U.S. serviceman during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I just did it out of rage, sir,” he told the judge, Col. David Conn, as he described walking from room to room, firing at mental health workers and patients.
“I was upset. I do not remember being angry, but I know that everyone who witnessed me outside the combat stress clinic said I looked angry,” he said. “What I remember most was I just wanted to kill myself. One hundred percent, I had decided to kill myself.”