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Soldiers say victim pleaded for mercy

Fragging hearing on Fort Stewart

POSTED: April 15, 2009 12:28 p.m.
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Sgt. Joseph C. Bozicevich

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When Staff Sgt. John Dresel heard gunfire on Sept. 14 that seemed to be closer than normal to the Internet café he frequented on Patrol Base Jurf at Sahkr, Iraq, he went to see what was going on.
He turned a corner and saw a man’s shadowy figure standing over a body.
The figure appeared to have a weapon pointed at the body.
“(Expletive), I am going to kill you,” Dresel said the figure shouted at the man lying in the dirt.
“The body was saying, ‘Why? Stop. Please don’t shoot!’ ”
According to Dresel, the person on the ground lay three or four feet from the figure.
At first, he said, he didn’t know if the two figures were enemies or allied troops.
Suddenly, there was more fire. The man with the gun discharged two shots into the body, the muzzle flash from the weapon lit up the night, revealing the shooter’s identity.
“From his feet to his head … I could see it was him,” Dresel told military prosecutors on Tuesday at Fort Stewart during an Article 32 hearing.
It was, in his words, U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph C. Bozicevich, 39.
“When I turned the corner, I could see Sgt. Bozicevich kind of cornering up, running up on the body. I was trying to keep myself from going into tunnel vision,” Dresel said. “You have to understand that we’re not trained to deal with stuff like this, with Americans killing Americans. We are trained to deal with enemy combatants, not Americans killing their battle buddies.”
Bozicevich, originally from Minneapolis, Minn., is facing two counts of premeditated murder for allegedly shooting and killing two of his platoon leaders on Sept. 14, 2008, while they were deployed to Iraq. All three men were members of the 3rd Infantry Division’s Alpha Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment and 4th Brigade Combat Team.

The shootings

The victims, Pensacola, Fla., native Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson, 24, was Bozicevich’s squad leader and Dallas native Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin, 26, was one of Bozicevich’s fellow team leaders.
Both died later from gunshot wounds.
For the first time during Bozicevich’s Article 32 hearing, which began Monday, continued Tuesday and is expected to continue today, the public and Dawson’s and Durbin’s relatives are hearing witnesses tell what happened in the early morning hours the day of the shootings.
Numerous soldiers and three Iraqi witnesses have testified that at around 1 a.m. Sept. 14, 2008, they heard gunfire and saw Dawson’s wounded body lying on the ground near Bozicevich, who was tackled and restrained by a few other men, later identified as Sgt. Darren Brown, Sgt. Jesse Everson and Dresel.
Everson and Dresel said Iraqi interpreter Hiader Hamze Muter, who is known by troops as Jaime, later told them another body, belonging to Durbin, lay wounded inside a nearby building used as a joint security station.
The very station that, several witnesses said, Bozicevich had been assigned to pull duty in after he was removed from a team leader position. He was removed earlier in the day for allegedly leaving a soldier behind while on foot patrol.
According to First Lt. Ryan Daly, Durbin, who had been working in the security station, was supposed to take Bozicevich’s place as team leader.
During the first day of testimony Monday, Daly, who was platoon leader for Alpha Company’s 2nd Platoon, the platoon the men belonged to, testified that Dawson and another non-commissioned officer, First Sgt. Xaver Perdue, had come to him with concerns about several incidents involving Bozicevich’s leadership.

Discipline actions


Daly said that as far as he knew, Dawson was going to counsel “Sgt. Boz,” giving him one counseling statement for three incidents, one of which involved a 40mm grenade that Bozicevich had reported he was missing earlier in the day.
“The decision was made to put Sgt. Boz on JSS duty,” Daly said. “He had done it before and he was fine with it.”
But testimony from Iraqi witness Saleem Faisal Abdul-Hadi indicated Bozicevich was not fine with his assignment.
Abdul-Hadi said that while he was working with Bozicevich in the JSS, Bozicevich seemed tired and angry.
“He did not want to talk,” he said.
At one point, he said, the approximately 240-pound Bozicevich banged his fist on a desk.

Tensions build

By late Tuesday morning, emotions escalated in and out of the courtroom as the defense cross-examined witnesses.
When Staff Sgt. Michael Navarro described how he found Durbin laying in the joint security station the defense continuously asked Navarro whether he heard Bozicevich say anything. Navarro replied repeatedly that his mind was not focused on Bozicevich. He left the courtroom with a tight face.
During a break, Navarro said in the courthouse hallway, within earshot of several onlookers, he wanted to go up to Bozicevich and tear his rank off of him.
“I don’t care if they hear this, but how could you represent someone like that?” he asked.
Inside the courtroom, after the break, Sgt. Jesse Everson took the stand.
Everson’s face flushed red as he described the moment he was told Durbin had also been shot.
“As I was walking up to the T-walls, Sgt. Navarro was coming out and he said, ‘You don’t need to go in there’,” he said. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘It’s Durbin. He’s gone.’ I said, ‘There has to be something we can do. We have to go in there and at least pray for him.’”
“And did you pray for him?” prosecutor Maj. Charles Kuhfahl asked.
“Yes, I went in there and I put my hands on his forehead. His face was cold and blue.”
Durbin’s wife Brandi held a dog-tag with her husband’s photo in her hand. She looked up at the ceiling.
When Everson was excused from the witness stand, he walked quietly from the courtroom and headed toward the restrooms, opting not to return the witness room.
 

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