Alleged Afghan shooter identified
Pictured: Shooting suspect Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. His name has not been officially released by the military.
March 16th, 2012
06:49 PM ET

Alleged Afghan shooter identified

UPDATE:The suspect in the shootings last weekend in Afghanistan has been identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a military source and a senior defense official told CNN Friday.


Soldier accused in Afghan killings on his way to Kansas base

The attorney for an American soldier accused of killing 16 Afghans raised issues of stress and multiple deployments Friday that hinted at a possible defense strategy.

Even as John Henry Browne spoke, his client was on his way to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Though the soldier has not been identified publicly by the military, a senior defense official and a military source identified him as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales.

The soldier had been in protective custody in Kuwait and was expected to arrive Friday evening at Fort Leavenworth, Browne said.

The civilian attorney said he spoke Thursday with his client, who seemed distant, like a deer in the headlights. Browne said their conversation was short because he did not trust that the phone lines were secure.

Browne said he was wary of why the soldier had been deployed to Afghanistan after having already served three tours in Iraq, where he had suffered mental and physical injury.

The soldier lost part of a foot in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Browne said the screening for the concussion was minimal. The soldier was told that his brigade would not deploy again but that changed suddenly and he arrived at the base in Kandahar province not too long ago.

"I am confused why they would send him back to Afghanistan," Browne said. "There was no 'maybe-he-shouldn't-go' discussion."

The soldier had not wanted to deploy to Afghanistan, Browne said, citing conversations with the soldier's family.

"He was told that he was not going to be redeployed," Browne said. "The family was counting on him not being redeployed. I think it would be fair to say he and the family were not happy that he was going back."

Browne, a well-known Seattle defense attorney, was asked by the soldier's family to represent him. He said he had reservations about taking on the case, given security concerns.

In his 30 years as a lawyer, Browne has taken on several high-profile cases, including that of serial killer Ted Bundy and the so-called Barefoot Bandit.

In describing his latest client, Browne painted a picture of a decorated, career soldier who joined the military after the 2001 terrorist attacks and had spent his Army life at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington. Browne called him a devoted husband and father to his two young children who never made any derogatory remarks about Muslims or Afghans.

Browne said he was offended by media reports that marital discord played a role in the events that unfolded in Kandahar province villages near the small combat outpost where the soldier was stationed. He said those reports were "nonsense."

He said he did not know whether alcohol may have been involved, as reported by The New York Times, but imagined that stress was a factor. "For God's sake, who is not going to be under stress in Afghanistan in a small camp where there is 20 people in the middle of nowhere?" Browne asked.

He also said that, the day before the slayings, another soldier on that base had his leg shot off in front of the suspect.

"That affected the whole base," Browne said.

The suspect has not been formally charged.

Charges could come within weeks in what Browne called more of a political case than a legal one.

"This is an international event, and it's a very touchy event for our government and for other governments," he said.

"It's not just a normal criminal case that we deal with, and we understand that. We understand our government's concern about it, and we certainly understand the concern of Afghanistan and its people. This (is) a pretty huge case from the standpoint of ramifications."

Thomas Kenniff, a former judge advocate in the military's legal system, said Browne's decision to speak out about the case this early - before even having met with his client - was not a good idea.

"You don't want to say anything at this point where you're going to overcommit to one particular defense or not," Kenniff said.

"Maybe alcohol is going to play a big part in this case as part of establishing a defense, as part of establishing a contributing factor to (post-traumatic stress) or the command environment in theater that condoned these sort of excesses that may have contributed to this tragic offense," he said.

The soldier is accused of leaving the remote outpost of Camp Belambay on foot early Sunday and heading to neighboring villages in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province.

In the villages, the soldier opened fire, killing nine children, three women and four men, witnesses and Afghan authorities said. The U.S. military has not confirmed the number of casualties.

The military had withheld the soldier's identity out of possible fear of retaliation, and the soldier's family has been moved on to Lewis-McChord, Browne said.

"There is great concern about their security," he said.

Browne also confirmed reports the soldier could face the death penalty.

"There is a discussion of the death penalty, understandably, I think, in this situation, which makes us very nervousm," he said. "It's certainly not off the table at this point. Our hope is that maybe it will be."

"We don't know anything about (his) state of mind. We don't know anything about the facts of the case, and whether they can prove what he's accused of."

Filed under: Afghanistan • Karzai • Military • Security Brief
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Karyl Wigg

    Yes, I love this place

    December 30, 2020 at 8:34 am | Reply
  2. Rashad Izatt

    Yes, I love this place

    December 23, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  3. Alyse Frisbie

    It's hard to say

    December 17, 2020 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  4. AlexShch

    OK. Lets put it this way: the guy woke up, drunk a little bit of alcohol not to get drunk, but just to warm up a little bit. He also had some history of brain injury in the past. His mental condition is below perfect - marital problems, etc... Understandable. His newly hired lawyer told recently that the guy has amnesia, so he does not remember anything. This is all plausible... believable... kind of. Why not? Let's give the guy benefits of reasonable doubt.

    BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL OTHERS AROUND HIM? Would it be a major violation of military discipline to leave the base located on essentially hostile territory ALONE in the middle of the night and go in UNDISCLOSED direction without asking permission from, or even notifying his superiors about the purpose of his leaving?

    Security cameras recorded how he left. But what about personal on duty who were on guard? Or manned guard no longer required? So Taliban or however are welcome to come in when everybody is asleep? Or what?

    March 19, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
    • Feltch

      "Benefit of reasonable doubt"?

      You are a complete fucking moron. I hope they fry this cocksucker.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
  5. Veritas

    Multiple deployments including losing part of a foot raises post traumatic stress disorder, plus proximity to an explosion raises Traumatic Brain Injury. I guarantee his defense attorneys are swarming the Joint Base Lewis McChord hospital records and medical psychiatrist credentials.
    Trial brings the expert witness: “So, doctor, what is the state-of-the-art of treatment these days? And what treatment did he receive at JBLM?” “State-of-the-art is X, Army standard is far lower. The Army has third world contract psychiatrists with minimal command of the English language.” “So the Government could’ve provided better treatment, but they chose not to?” “That is correct.”
    He’ll be found guilty, but there will be leniency. Does William Calley ring a bell?
    He was a platoon leader in the Americal Division deployed to Vietnam in March 1968 where his troops were taking casualties, the Americans wore uniforms but the insurgents didn’t, he was frustrated by the locals unwillingness to defend themselves and often complicity with the enemy. Gee, a lot like Afghanistan. So he ordered his troops to kill all the villagers. They made a good effort. Calley was charged with killing 109, but the Mai Lai massacre estimates are usually 300 plus.
    The court martial adjudged him guilty. How much time does one get for 300 plus dead civilians? About three and a half years house arrest. Sympathetic jury.
    RetiredVet, you don’t get to not deploy when you’re a soldier. Soldiering isn’t a democrat welfare program. If he wanted out, then as a service-related injury he gets Veterans Affairs treatment. Now we get to the part about higher ups.
    Ass monkey Obama, worst president in history, is wildly cutting the military so fewer and fewer carry more and more burden. And the VA sucks. And Obama’s budget proposal proposes soldiers pay an increased medical premium. And the Afghans aren’t supporting us because ass monkey Obama announced a timetable for departure. Every service member is bearing the burden of an idiotic Commander in Chief who adds great stress to an already hard situation. That’s just the way it is.
    Guessing, guilty on sixteen counts second degree twenty years all concurrent, out in ten.

    March 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply

      Well veritas , this terrorist wiil be found guilty on all charges , and the usa will anouce to the world that their military justice is justice , the results will be that the usa is a leader on the world stage and this mad man will be executed.

      the result of anything other than this will not be in line with the worlds view , so no matter what the excuses are for his actions the usa military will stand with the world standard and end this as quickly as possible.

      the best thing this mad man could have done after the fact was to off himself , but since he was gutless the military will not be. if this guy were to hang himself before court starts that would not surprise me !

      the only trauma that is to be brought to the forefront as far as the usa military will be concerned with is the act against women and children. so all the statements by the lawyers outside the courtroom that point the finger at the leadership for the reason that this has happened will be void in the face of resolve on this matter. I truly think the military is going to bring justice swiftly and the lawyers will be put under a gag order once the charges are laid.

      March 19, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
  6. political prisoner

    OK fun loving group here today I see..I'm glad the solder is back in the USA ..I'm sure he will get a fair trail. Tho they should not of released his name... could put his family in danger.
    And thanks for the inside look at the qoran but I could care less about it
    K u may resume the name calling

    March 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
  7. Conscience for Peace

    Americans are the only peacemakers in the world.

    March 18, 2012 at 4:01 am | Reply
    • Stool

      Americans are scum.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:41 am | Reply
  8. Conscience for Peace

    The most patriotic people in the world are the people of USA. See how God praises in Quraan about these patriotic people.

    Sura Al-Baqara
    Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you (O Muhammad Peace be upon him ) warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.

    Allâh has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings, (i.e. they are closed from accepting Allâh’s Guidance), and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.

    And of mankind, there are some (hypocrites) who say: ”We believe in Allâh and the Last Day” while in fact they believe not.

    They (think to) deceive Allâh and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!

    In their hearts is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allâh has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.

    And when it is said to them: ”Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: ”We are only peacemakers.”

    Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.

    And when it is said to them (hypocrites): ”Believe as the people (followers of Muhammad Peace be upon him , Al-Ansâr and Al-Muhajirûn) have believed,” they say: ”Shall we believe as the fools have believed?” Verily, they are the fools, but they know not.

    And when they meet those who believe, they say: ”We believe,” but when they are alone with their Shayâtin (devils – polytheists, hypocrites, etc.), they say: ”Truly, we are with you; verily, we were but mocking.”

    Allâh mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrong-doings to wander blindly.

    These are they who have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless. And they were not guided.

    Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindled a fire; then, when it lighted all around him, Allâh took away their light and left them in darkness. (So) they could not see.

    They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not (to the Right Path).

    March 18, 2012 at 3:56 am | Reply
    • jiim

      OK so where is the reference where it targets only certain people , this could refer to anyone there are no specifics. This is people in general , including Islamics , Mullahs are brainwashers, use your own thought processes.

      March 19, 2012 at 1:51 am | Reply
  9. Bitchin Shootin Marine

    Staff Sgt. Robert Bales IS A FUCKING GOD !!!!! Thank You for your service sir !!! The only good muslim is a DEAD muslim.

    March 18, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply

      you are a young pup with nothing but a corrupt mind , i am not a muslim but i am a member of the human race and if you choose to join us in the future than you HAD BETTER UNDERSTAND THAT AN ATTACK AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN WILL NEVER BE TOLERATED , period

      March 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • Feltch

      'Marine', my ass. You're more like a step-dad cum-guzzling, who's-my-real-daddy welfare brat.

      And BTW, your mother has no fucking idea who 'daddy' is, either.

      March 20, 2012 at 12:44 am | Reply
  10. RetiredVet

    The ones to blame for this incident are his upper command, they told him he wasn't going to Afganistan, then they sent him anyway dispite having TBI and PTSD. His upper chain of command should be held accountable for his actions because they sent him there. His upper chain of command should be in Levenworth, he should be getting professional mental health help.

    March 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • whaaa

      hard to say, he did kill women and children, everybody sais the man was professional so why would the top think different, his doc said 'fit for duty" – i think it would be hard pressed for him to get a fair trial even if he is mentaly insane, afterall he has had a bigger impact on the course of the war than any general or even the president, his little rampage against children absolutley broke any bonds we had with the ANA,

      March 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Reply
      • whaaa

        they should rename beatle bailey to PVT Manning and change the SGT in the cartoon to SSGT Bales

        March 18, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  11. Kristen

    The wise – you're anything but. You are a bigot though.

    March 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  12. Nell Crowley

    I am so sorry for Staff Sgt. Bales and his family, but our mistakes as a nation do not excuse his actions, I am sorry for the pain of the Afghan families. This is not supposed to happen. Please do not think that we, as a nation excuse this action.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
    • the wise

      Shit ur ignorant gob, like anybody cares about your simpleminded happy horseshit

      March 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
      • Capt. Obvious

        Ah, the "I'm more right than you cuz i can tell you to shut up louder" argument. Nice to know that people enjoy the view up their own ass

        March 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  13. the wise

    Stop fighting Israeli wars my good comrades.

    You owe them nothing. Not your pity, and certainly not blood and treasure.

    Tragic things if this sort will continue, as long as we bloody our hands on israels behalf.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • Nell Crowley

      don't give me that happy horseshit

      March 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Reply
      • the wise

        Don't take it, happy homo.

        March 17, 2012 at 1:42 am |

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