March 13th, 2012
03:57 PM ET

Investigators probing whether alcohol a factor in Afghanistan shootings

By Barbara Starr and Chris Lawrence

The military is investigating whether alcohol was a factor in the weekend shootings allegedly committed by a U.S. soldier in two villages in Afghanistan, two senior military officials told CNN Tuesday.

One of the senior military officials said alcohol was found on the base in the area where the suspect lived. It is not clear yet if the alcohol belonged to the soldier; a toxic screening was conducted but the results have not been returned, the official said.

The military has presented a determination of "probable cause" to allow it to hold the Army staff sergeant suspected in the shootings, which occurred in two Afghan villages, an International Security Assistance Force official told CNN.  Under the rules of military justice, a probable cause finding is necessary within 48 hours after the suspect is taken into custody to show there is a enough evidence to continue detention.

Military investigators are continuing to sort through the events of this weekend as they prepare a case against the suspect.

The military is reviewing imagery showing the soldier leaving and returning to the base, the officials said. The base had what is known as persistent surveillance for perimeter security. There is no imagery from the villages.

Investigators from the Army Criminal Investigations Division, the lead agency on the case, are interviewing a "range of individuals both on the American and Afghan side," including members of the alleged shooter's team, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said Tuesday.

A U.S. official familiar with some elements of the investigation said the investigators have "recovered some initial evidence" from the scene, including shell casings. American soldiers typically carry the M-4 carbine rifle, which uses high-powered rounds and can be used in a semi-automatic mode for repeat firing.

Because the victims are believed to have been shot at close range in their homes, it's likely many of the high-powered bullets went completely through the bodies and landed in the walls.

"Ballistics is not going to be a problem," the official told CNN.

While officials are likely to be able to recover much of this material, all the victims have been buried and permission to exhume the bodies is unlikely, the official said.

After the investigation ends, the findings will be sent up the chain of command, and military officials "will then make judicial process decisions," according to Kirby. He said it's too soon to know whether the soldier will be tried in Afghanistan.

Two U.S. officials said there is no deadline for making the charges public. In many cases charges come within two weeks of initial detention.

The military will not release the suspect's name until charges are formally made, or "preferred," by military authorities.

For now, the plan is to keep the suspect in Kandahar, where the investigators working in the area can easily get access to him.

Gen. John Allen, the commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has yet to decide when and how the man will be moved back to the United States.  It is likely he will be moved back to the United States at some point because the legal proceedings are likely to extend beyond his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama referred to the actions as murder in comments made Tuesday about the shooting, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president was not making a legal judgment.

"What I've made (known) to President (Hamid) Karzai when I spoke to him is that the United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered," Obama said in a statement from the Rose Garden.

"I think ... innocent Afghan civilians were killed," Carney said when White House reporters asked about the president's word choice. "How that happened and why that happened is under investigation. So I wouldn't go beyond that, and I think that he was not going beyond that."

The military is trying to clamp down on release of information because of growing concerns that leaks and public statement could be used by a defense attorney to claim the suspect could not get a fair trial, military sources said.

Carney also said the president did not imply there was more than one shooter when he said, "We'll follow the facts wherever they lead us and we will make sure that anybody who was involved is held fully accountable with the full force of the law."

"My understanding," Carney explained, "is there's no reason to believe that there was more than one shooter, but that they are talking to a number of individuals as part of that investigation."

Allen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday that investigators believed the shootings were "the actions of a single soldier."

"The evidence at this point, both in terms of observations and reports and interviews, lead us to believe that he acted as an individual at this point," the general said in an interview broadcast on "Situation Room."

The secretary of defense suggested to reporters traveling overseas with him that the death penalty is a possibility in the case.

"My understanding is that in these instances that could be a consideration," Panetta said.

No service member has been put to death since 1961, though a number have been sentenced to death and are on death row.

President George W. Bush was the last to authorize the death penalty for a soldier, which he did in 2008 for a service member whose crimes were committed in the 1980s. Should the suspect in the Afghanistan shooting be found guilty and sentenced to death, it will likely be up to a future president to approve the sentence.

soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Samarinda

    I think in 2012 the US will spend more than that on military. Proposed bguedts and estimated spending on military are usually a lot lower than they are in reality.Other programs like the Social Security branch of spending need restructuring in the next several years in order to stay within their bounds as well.

    April 4, 2012 at 7:03 am | Reply
  2. Skorpio

    The US should ban the Koran in all military bases. 1) Muslim clerics use the Koran as a weapon to incite, instigate, provoke the masses to create violence, chaos, hatred and attacks against Americans. 2) The same way Saudi Arabia confiscates and bans BIBLES because they are perceived as "subversives", the US should do the same to the Koran. 3) In comparison to Hitler's book "Mein Kampf", the Koran is more violent, discriminatory and anti-Semitic. 4) The Koran promotes, violence, hatred, resentment, vengeance, terrorism and discrimination. 5) The Koran is extremely offensive to "NON-MUSLIMS". The Koran denigrates, humiliates, discriminates all "Non-Muslims", setting a standard to follow by the Muslim people.

    March 14, 2012 at 9:23 am | Reply
    • rokidtoo

      Would you also ban the Korans of U.S. soldiers that are Muslims? What about our Afghan partners?

      March 14, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  3. jon

    We already know he had a brain injury, that ought to be enough to know why he snapped.

    March 14, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
  4. Dana

    I wonder how Obama will react when it happens at his daughters school, involving his daughters,huuuuuuuummmmm.

    March 13, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Reply
    • Pudendal Cleft

      Oh, look – a fortune teller! A regular Nostradildo.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  5. Jim

    If all of the US is being held responsible for the actions of one man, then it seems all of Islam should be held responsible for the actions of the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Assad , Bashar , and the list goes on and on. Maybe Kharzai himself should answer for the Taliban.

    March 13, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
    • Dana

      Make no mistake about it Karzai will answer to the Taliban, he will be beheaded.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  6. Dennis

    This soldier has a wife, and 2 kids, He was in the army for 11 years. He served 3 tours in Iraq. All these things he did without ever causing a single crime, and at the age of 38 he did this terrible thing. You have to believe that the poor guy snapped, and temporary insanity would indeed be a plea if the crime happened in the states. Lock him up, get him some help, and hopefully he will over time get better mentally. We of course will have to lie to the Afghans and say he died in prison, but that can easily be done. Don't let a good man, who went nuts protecting all of us suffer for the rest of his life. And they better take care of his wife and kids, who have had their husband and father away from them for the last 11 years.

    March 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • Reasonable1

      Thanks for your concerns about a "good man". I am touched by your thoughtfulness. Any thoughts about the children he murdered? The women he murdered? What is your suggestion about giving his victims their lives back?

      March 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Reply
      • jon

        Where was your outrage when Ameicans were killed because of a book burning?

        March 14, 2012 at 1:52 am |
      • rokidtoo

        Hey, they're brown people. /sarcasm/

        March 14, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • AZ

      I think your point of view would be different, if your family was killed by him

      March 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Reply
    • tobijah

      Yes, this guy may well have snapped. But we'll make a big mistake if we try to tag him, as many are doing, as a "rogue" soldier. This and many other tragedies (e.g. military suicides) keep happening, and they're the predictable result of twenty years of systematic hyperextension of our military by our Presidents, both R and D. (As of 30 September, our military was in over 150 countries.) Good analysis at: http://crybelovedcountry.com/2012/03/massacre-in-afghanistan-we-have-exactly-three-choices/

      March 15, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Reply
    • Sergio

      Ciao sono nuovo mi sono registrato 2 min fa.Mi sono letto i mmtoenci di vari argomenti . Che dire alcuni sono un p sempre troppi ottimisti.prima di dire bello o brutto aspettiamo di giocarci

      April 7, 2012 at 12:35 am | Reply
      • Bashar

        Many Medals of Honor awarded in the 19th cetnury were associated with saving the flag, not just for patriotic reasons, but because the flag was a primary means of battlefield communication. During the time of the Civil War, no other military award was authorized, and to many this explains why some seemingly less notable actions were recognized by the Medal of Honor during that war. During the Civil War, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton promised a Medal of Honor to every man in the 27th Regiment, Maine Infantry who extended his enlistment beyond the agreed upon date. Many stayed four days extra, and then were discharged. Due to confusion, Stanton awarded a Medal of Honor to all 864 men in the regiment. 29 soldiers who served as Abraham Lincoln's funeral guard also were awarded the Medal of Honor. During World War 1 when a board of generals was created to investigate Medal of Honor candidates, 911 Medals of Honor awarded during the Civil War were rescinded. After World War 1, the requirements were toughened and lesser awards were created as alternatives. As a result, it became harder to win a Medal of Honor.Was this answer helpful?

        August 1, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  7. Jim

    Wheres my comment

    March 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Reply
  8. BurntheQuaran

    People thats calling for the death penalty,can forget about it. The guy is sick from his combat injuries.. Myself I blame the Military for letting him back to duty.

    March 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  9. Skorpio

    Killing 16 Muslim clerics INSTEAD of 16 innocent people would've been more pragmatic. The soldier could had been a hero in the US AND Afghanistan, especially for Afghan women. Islamic clerics are the source of all violence, hatred, terrorism and discrimination.

    March 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Reply
    • asda

      No this solider is a murderer and those people were living in their home in their country. The clerics or whoever is in power there and provide protection would likely have HELPED this family. What is the mission over their anyway??? Protection from the Taliban? Well then perhaps we should not have given the Taliban weapons AND trained them in the FIRST place. Study your history.

      March 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Reply
    • Pudendal Cleft

      If only, Skorpio, he'd have just shot you.

      March 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  10. helloherat

    Despicable actions yet just becoming another trend in this calamity...The traumatic brain injury card will definitely be played on this one. Why was he cleared for another deployment? Our military healthcare system, specifically the mental health side is a joke. PTSD is over-diagnosed due to SOME troops simply playing the system. A brain injury can cause a lot of things. Memory loss, depression, loss of motor skills etc...But to walk off a base in the middle of the night and go house to house indiscriminately killing civilians, well now that's called psychosis. Here's something for you to look up. A trend throughout our military of drug use, specifically synthetic drugs such as "bath salts". See how many soldiers and marines have been sent to the psych ward after repeated use of that stuff. Look up the psychological side effects it produces. Then realize that this stuff is surely being mailed overseas to troops by friends back stateside. A severe problem exist within our military, except no commanding officer is willing to recognize it...

    March 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • rokidtoo

      Perhaps, we should wait for the trial before opining on the reasons for his action.

      March 14, 2012 at 11:21 am | Reply
  11. Sly

    War is hell, guys snap and do bad things.

    Lock him up, throw away the key, or better, take him out back and finish him so the rest of us don't have to waste our tax dollars.

    I'm curious how many (hundreds or maybe thousands?) of American's will die because of this bad apple.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  12. JohnC

    Accuracy in reporting..ah... the rifles used by forces is an M-16 M4 , the bullets are standard 5.56 Nato rounds, with a 55 to 60 grain (bullet), which are actually a small rounds with a diameter of .224 , or small as .22. High power? not really much smaller than the rounds used for,say, deer hunting. Capable of semi automatic fire? why yes it is a semi automatic rifle , that is it fires once then the action of the bolt as it returns will reload a fresh bullet into the chamber. it is "select fire", which is what you meant to say, the military version will fire in three modes, single shot, a three round burst, or continuous fire (fire repeatedly until the finger is removed from the trigger or the magazine is empty). capable of fully automatic fire is what I am pretty sure you meant to say. It would be extremely dangerous to send our military forces into hostile fire situations with single shot bolt action (manually operated) rifles. I am a veteran and enjoyed your article and this is truly a tragedy and an embarassment for our country and the armed forces. I just wanted to clarify and educate the co-reporters for future reference as references to high power rifles and semi automatic rifles are thrown about loosely and are indicative of ignorance on the part of a great many in the media.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Reply
    • Rich

      You're probably right, but who cares? No offense, but it seems like whenever some idiot service member goes postal or makes a huge error, veterans always seem to blame the media. So what if they use the word "semi-automatic" because it sounds deadlier than it is.

      March 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  13. FormerAirborne

    The M4 is a semi-automatic rifle, its default setting is semi-automatic (meaning that the trigger must be pulled every time the operator wishes to fire a round) although there is a setting for burst (three rounds fired with each trigger pull). Some elite units have their rifles modified to include an automatic setting (the rifle will fire as long as the trigger is held down), but either way, your statement that the rifle "can be used in a semi automatic mode for multiple kills" makes no sense. Ms. Starr please have someone that knows something about the subject matter proofread this stuff before you publish it and please fix your article.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  14. OK

    @ RillyKrewl

    You're an idiot.

    March 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  15. RillyKewl

    Yes, alcohol, drugs and perhaps religious views and/or mental health/mental capacity should be fully + extensively investigated. Its a hate crime, on a grand, international scale. Its a crime against humanity.

    I would fully investigate this guy's religiosity extensively.
    Although, I guess there's a remote possibility he was offered money too.

    March 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • M2D2

      You're an idiot with an agenda at that. Its not by accident you state everything you have before mental health. Rillystupid more like it.

      March 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
    • achepotle

      I agree rilly...this has all the earmarks of a Christian hate-crime against women....you have to look no further than Rush's comments about "sluuts", and the enthusiastic support they received from the leading Christian Republican politicians to know the Evangelical Christians have deep hatred fro women, to the point of massacres. Something needs to be dome.

      March 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Reply

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