FORT LEWIS — The U.S. soldier accused of killing five fellow troops at a counseling center in Iraq would face court martial at Fort Lewis, the military said Tuesday.
Maj. Mike Garcia said Sgt. John M. Russell was a member of a unit attached to the 555th “Triple Nickel” Engineer Brigade, and the headquarters returned in September to the Army base.
The 44-year-old radio communications specialist is charged with premeditated murder and aggravated assault for the shooting in May at the Camp Liberty Combat Stress Control Clinic. He was on his third deployment, with less than two months to go.
Russell is confined at the Butner Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., and he’ll be assessed to determine if he mentally capable of assisting in his own defense.
He was assessed by a panel of doctors, found to be incapable of assisting in his own defense and is being treated so he can eventually participate in a court martial, Garcia said.
Russell had been unraveling for nearly two weeks but the U.S. military lacked clear procedures to monitor him or deal with the deadly shooting spree once it began to unfold, said a military report obained Tuesday.
The report describes a man whose problems were known and who received some counseling, yet at critical times did not appear to get the help he needed.
Russell was on his fourth visit to a mental health clinic in Iraq when the appointment was cut short because he became “verbally noncompliant,” the report stated.
Clinic personnel then called the military police, who declined to arrest him and ordered him returned to his unit.
Less than an hour later, the report said, he managed to grab a loaded M-16 rifle from a fellow soldier and steal a white Ford Explorer SUV before going back to the counseling facility.
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