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Soldier who killed Iraqi girl in 2004 discharged; no criminal charges filed

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

03/23/06 "Honolulu Advertiser" -- -- The Army has discharged without criminal charges a Schofield Barracks soldier who was involved in the 2004 killing of a 13-year-old girl and wounding of her sister and mother in Iraq.

A criminal investigation was opened and evidence was reviewed before the decision by Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, to approve the discharge of Sgt. Jeffrey D. Waruch, 28, officials said.

"In this case, a review of the investigation determined that no further evidence was likely to be found that would result in the case going to trial," Schofield Barracks said in a statement.

The investigation found that Waruch, who was with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, did not act in a negligent or unlawful manner in the Feb. 18, 2004 shootings and that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, the Army said.

The news is troubling for Edward Richmond Sr., the father of another Schofield Barracks soldier.

The Louisiana man's son, Edward Richmond Jr., is serving a three-year sentence in the military stockade at Fort Sill, Okla., for shooting an Iraqi cowherd 10 days after the girl's death.

A criminal investigation of the shooting that Richmond was involved in started immediately after the incident, according to the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. Army criminal investigators did not begin a formal investigation of the earlier incident until more than a year after the shootings.

Edward Richmond Sr. said this week that he doesn't know why criminal proceedings were initiated at different times.

"I wish I could look (the battalion commander) dead in the eyes and be standing face to face, and I'd ask him that myself," Richmond Sr. said. "That's a question I've had the whole time."

He suggested, however, that his son was cast, in part, as a scapegoat "because the villagers were mad as hell because the second incident happened." Richmond Sr. noted that the mother and two daughters shot were family of the tribal elders in the village.

In that case, as the three ran from a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. convoy, 13-year-old Intisar Saleh was shot in the head from a distance of about 200 feet. Her mother was hit and lost a leg, and Intisar's 15-year-old sister was shot in the leg.

Waruch said in a statement that he shot the three Iraqis after they ignored repeated warnings in English and Arabic to stop, suspicious movements were made, and one appeared to have "something long" that he believed could have been a weapon.

A review conducted by Maj. Samuel Schubert found that two in the group of fleeing civilians were surrendering, and that Waruch fired at one of the females because the civilians made "sudden movements."

Schubert said in his report: "Under these facts, the soldier's certainty that he was about to be fired upon was not reasonable," and there was no weapon. He added, "The soldier did not observe hostile intent.

"The engagement was not in" accordance with rules of engagement, Schubert noted, underlining the word "not."

Schubert also said it was "important to note" that the soldiers were new to the theater and were reacting to one of their first combat situations.

The Dayton Daily News reported that the family of the slain Iraqi girl agreed on Jan. 24 to meet with military criminal investigators. Waruch was discharged three days later.

Although Waruch was allowed to leave the Army, if additional evidence comes to light, he can be tried by the Department of Justice under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, the Army said.

On Feb. 28, 2004, Waruch was the only other soldier present when then 20-year-old Pfc. Edward Richmond Jr. shot Iraqi cowherd Muhamad Husain Kadir in the back of the head as Waruch handcuffed the man. Richmond Jr. has said he shot the Iraqi when the man lunged at Waruch.

Photographs showed the dead man with his hands flex-cuffed behind his back.

Waruch had told Richmond to "put the gun on his head and shoot him" if he moved, according to an appeal filed in the case. Richmond's father said his son did what he was supposed to do as a soldier.

In August 2004 Richmond Jr. was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. A clemency hearing is scheduled for April 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

COPYRIGHT 2006 The Honolulu Advertiser

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