Marine Sniper Says He Shot Syrians to Save His Men
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A Marine sniper charged in the shooting deaths of two Syrians told a military court Wednesday he believed he was protecting his troops from a roadside bomb.
Sgt. John Winnick II is charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter and failing to adhere to the military's rules of engagement by firing without reasonable certainty that his targets were hostile.
The June 2007 shooting began after a soda delivery truck stopped near a sniper team hideout on a busy road in Iraq's western Anbar province, where roadside bombs were a common threat.
Winnick fired a fatal sniper round at a man who hopped out of the cab, removed a container or bag from a side compartment, and appeared to begin digging at the ground, according to testimony from his comrades. He then killed a second man with a shotgun after the team stormed out of their hiding place.
A cursory search of the soda truck after the shooting did not reveal any bomb-making material.
"I did this action in defense of my Marines," Winnick told Marine investigating officer Capt. Jeffrey King. "I didn't want them to end up like other Marines I have seen."
King will recommend to Marine commanders whether there is enough evidence to bring the 24-year-old to court-martial.
Winnick faces up to 40 years in prison and dishonorable discharge if he is tried and convicted on all counts, which also include charges of aggravated assault against two truck passengers who were injured in the firefight.
Several other men on the team were reprimanded after the shootings, according to prosecutors.
Story by AP and NEWSMAX.COM