U.S. Guardsman Accused Of Iraqi’s Murder
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — An Indiana National Guardsman who received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in Iraq has been charged in the death of an Iraqi citizen, the Army said Tuesday.
And the Army is accusing the soldier of being undeserving of his Purple Heart. AP Image U.S. military service Purple Heart medal
The Iraqi died at the same time Cpl. Dustin Berg, 21, was wounded, the military said. Berg also faces charges of false swearing and the wearing of an unauthorized award.
A hearing was scheduled Thursday at Fort Knox, Ky., to determine whether the case will proceed to a court-martial.
The Iraqi died in November 2003 near Nippur, south of Baghdad, said Gini Sinclair, a Fort Knox public affairs officer. She declined to release further details about the case. Berg’s mother was quoted in The Herald newspaper of Jasper, Ind., on Nov. 24, 2003, as saying her son, of Ferdinand, Ind., had been shot the day before in the abdomen and had undergone minor surgery. Reached at her home Tuesday by The Associated Press, Mary Lee Berg would not comment, saying only that her son had returned to duty in Iraq after the shooting. Berg received a Purple Heart during a ceremony Feb. 19, 2004, at Camp Atterbury in Indiana. The Indiana National Guard on Tuesday would not release the citation describing why the Purple Heart was awarded. Berg was a member of the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper, Ind., when it mobilized in January 2003 for the Iraq war and returned home in February 2004. He has since been put on active duty and assigned to Fort Knox. He was charged in the case on Jan. 13, Sinclair said.
Sinclair said an attorney has been appointed for Berg, but she could not release the attorney’s name.
Investigator: Soldier Admitted Killing Iraqi, Shooting Self
FORT KNOX, Ky. — An Indiana National Guard soldier charged with killing an Iraqi police officer changed his story multiple times before admitting killing the man, then shooting himself, a military investigator said Thursday.
Cpl. Dustin Berg, 21, is shown here at a February 2004 ceremony at Camp Atterbury in Johnson County.
Cpl. Dustin Berg, 21, of Ferdinand, Ind., who had received a Purple Heart after being wounded in Iraq, is charged with murder. His lawyer said Thursday the fatal shooting was in self-defense.
Berg also faces charges of false swearing and the wearing of an unauthorized award for allegedly lying about the incident. His attorneys are not contesting those charges.
The testimony Thursday came at an Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury. Next, investigating officer Maj. Samuel Butzbach will make a recommendation on whether Berg should face a court-martial.
Butzbach’s recommendation goes to Col. Michael Alexander, the special court martial convening authority, who will review the case and send it with a recommendation to Maj. Gen. Terry L. Tucker, the commander of Fort Knox. Tucker will ultimately decide if Berg will face a court-martial.
Testimony during the nearly three-hour hearing focused on Berg’s reaction just after the shooting and his accounts of it in the months that followed.
Special agent Clarence Joubert of the Army Criminal Investigative Division said Berg initially said he was shot by a man in a red turban and white shirt. After four interviews, Berg acknowledged shooting and killing Iraqi police officer Hussein Kamel Hadi Dawood Al-Dubeidi on Nov. 23, 2003, south of Baghdad.
Joubert said Berg also acknowledged picking up Al-Dubeidi’s AK-47 and shooting himself in the side.
“Each meeting I had with him, there were inconsistencies of what happened,” Joubert said. “Bottom line is the versions of his actions and what prompted him to do his actions changed.”
Berg initially said the Iraqi police officer shot him, before changing his story, said Capt. Rodney J. Shambarger, who supervised Berg for about 10 months. Shambarger said three other soldiers in the unit were under criminal investigation at the time of the shooting.
That may have played a role in Berg’s decision to falsify the story of the shooting, Shambarger said.
“It’s an unnerving thing being investigated, having to worry about the outcome,” Shambarger said.
Staff Sgt. Richard Hamilton, who served with Berg in the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper, Ind., said Berg told him about shooting the policeman and himself the day Berg made the same admission to Joubert in June 2004.
“He doesn’t seem like the type of soldier to do that,” Hamilton said. “It just caught me off guard.”
“Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Milton, a military police officer who worked near Convoy Support Center Scania, where Berg was based, said he heard the shooting, then saw an injured Berg running toward him.
Milton, who testified via telephone, described a panicky Berg telling officers a man in a red turban and white shirt shot him. Milton and other soldiers found Al-Dubeidi near an old road a short time later.
“He made no mention of an Iraqi policeman,” Milton said.
Maj. Michael Smith, with the Army’s medical examiner unit in Washington, D.C., reviewed pictures of Al-Dubeidi and said the police officer died of gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
“It would be a close range gunshot wound,” Smith said by telephone. “Most likely, it was inches, not yards.”
Berg did not testify. The prosecution did not specify a motive for the shooting, but his military attorney, Capt. Travis Hall, said the shooting was justified because Berg feared for his life.
“He was in an environment that was dangerous,” Hall said. “There was a fair amount of uncertainty as to who the enemy was.”
Hall also said Berg made up the story about being attacked and shot himself because he feared that the military would investigate the shooting.
“That’s really what this case is all about, a soldier being afraid of an investigation,” Hall said after the hearing.
The prosecutor, Capt. Dan Stigall, said there is no doubt Berg killed the policeman and should face a court-martial for murder.
“The accused has admitted under oath that he shot an Iraqi policeman who did not shoot him,” Stigall said.
Berg received a Purple Heart during a ceremony in February 2004, the month he returned home from Iraq. The Indiana National Guard has declined to release the citation describing why the Purple Heart was awarded to Berg.
Berg has since been put on active duty and assigned to Fort Knox. He was charged in the case on Jan. 13.