The Morning Report
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Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos testified during a court martial hearing earlier this morning that he felt shocked and sick to his stomach after watching several Camp Pendleton Marines shoot a defenseless man.
Bacos, a Navy medic, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges related to the April shooting death of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, an Iraqi man in Hamdaniya, a small village west of Baghdad.
By pleading guilty, Bacos, who was initially charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy along with seven Marines, became the first to publicly accept responsibility for his role in the incident.
Here’s how the L.A. Times described today’s hearing:
Bacos testified that several Marines had hoped to capture and kill a “high value” Iraqi long suspected of planting bombs.
Bacos said that the conspiracy was led by the fire-team leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III. “He was mad we kept letting him (the Iraqi) go when he was a known terrorist,” Bacos said.
When the original target could not be located, Hutchins decided to take and kill Awad, a suspected insurgent who lived nearby, Bacos said.
Bacos said that after watching the Marines shoot Awad, who was bound feet and hands, “I felt shocked and sick to my stomach.”
Bacos’ testimony came after his attorneys reached an agreement with government prosecutors who agreed to drop the murder charges against him. Bacos’ statements will likely be used in the prosecution of his peers.
Bacos and seven Camp Pendleton-based Marines are accused of abducting Awad from his home. Prosecutors allege the accused bound Awad’s hands and feet, shot him to death and used a stolen shovel and rifle to make it appear as if he was an insurgent caught in the act of planting a roadside bomb.
Bacos allegedly stole a shovel and AK-47 assault rifle from a home in Hamdaniya but didn’t shoot Awad, according to a narrative of events compiled by government prosecutors. After Awad’s death, Bacos allegedly fired the stolen rifle in the air to make it appear as if Awad had opened fire on the Marines, according to the same document.
After striking the deal with prosecutors, Bacos, was moved to a holding facility at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station for his safety, the L.A. Times reported. He was originally detained at the Camp Pendleton brig along with the accused Marines.
One of those Marines, Pfc. John Jodka III, has also been removed from Camp Pendleton brig, suggesting that a plea deal may be in the works, the newspaper reported.