Hanau, Germany An Army officer charged with murdering a driver for militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq told a fellow officer the man was so badly wounded that he shot him out of compassion, a U.S. military court heard Wednesday.
At a hearing to determine whether Capt. Rogelio Maynulet should be court-martialed, 1st Lt. Colin Cremin testified that he asked Maynulet what happened after the May 21 shooting near Kufa, south of Baghdad, after learning of the incident from a soldier.
Maynulet had been leading a 1st Armored Division patrol when it came across a BMW sedan believed to be carrying al-Sadr militiamen and a chase ensued. U.S. soldiers fired shots at the vehicle, wounding both the driver and passenger.
When a medic pulled the driver out of the car Maynulet said it was clear he had suffered critical injuries, with part of his skull blown away, prosecutor Capt. Daniel Sennott said, reading a statement Cremin made in August.
The medic "said nothing could be done for him. At that point Capt. Maynulet told you he stepped back and shot him in the base of the neck or back of the head," Sennott said.
Cremin confirmed making the statement, and added that Maynulet told him there had been no alternative.
"It was something he didn't want to do, but it was the compassionate response," Cremin testified. "It was definitely the humane response."
Cremin, who was helping coordinate the mission from company headquarters, said there had also been no chance of sending a helicopter to rescue the driver.
"It would have compromised the lives of the soldiers involved in that mission," he testified.
Evidence was presented at the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury session, so an Army investigator can decide whether to court-martial Maynulet on charges of murder and dereliction of duty -- both of which he denies.
The hearing is scheduled to run through Friday.