US Soldier's Friends Stunned at Afghanistan Rampage Charges

An Afghan boy peeks into a bus carrying the body of a person who was allegedly killed by a U.S. service member in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, March 11, 2012
An Afghan boy peeks into a bus carrying the body of a person who was allegedly killed by a U.S. service member in Panjwai, Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan, March 11, 2012

An American soldier suspected of killing 16 civilians in Afghanistan, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, met Monday with his lawyer at the military detention center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Bales, who is based near Tacoma, Washington, is expected to face charges within a week.

Family members said they are stunned by the accusation that Bales left his Afghan base March 11 and went on a killing rampage that left 16 people dead in two villages, including three women and nine children. Military officials have said Bales carried out the attacks after a night of heavy drinking, and that he set many of the victims on fire.

Friends describe a very different man and say the 38-year-old father of two was polite and friendly. Stuart Ness is a neighbor in the suburb south of Seattle where Bales lived with his family. He said the stresses of war can change a man.

“I was in the military, I was in Vietnam, I was an infantry guy like he was," said Ness. "And war does terrible, terrible things to you, and I think everybody would agree that nobody would do something like that if they were really thinking clearly."

Friends in Ohio, where Bales grew up, recall a young man who was captain of his football team and who cared for a disabled neighbor after school. Bales joined the Army shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

His attorney, John Henry Browne, said he faces challenges in court. "You couldn't imagine a more difficult case, I don't think," he said. "I mean, every challenge. This case has political ramifications, it has legal ramifications, it has social ramifications, so you couldn't really imagine a bigger case."

Related video by Chris Simkins:

Bales was a decorated solider who had commendations for good conduct and superior performance. He served three tours in Iraq, where he lost part of a foot and suffered a concussive head injury.  

He has had several run-ins with the law. He was charged with assaulting a girlfriend in 2002, but the charges were dropped after Bales took a course in anger management.  He was charged in a hit-and-run traffic accident in 2008, but those charges were also dropped.

Bales' lawyer has denied suggestions that the soldier's marriage was shaky, but like many homeowners, the couple faced financial problems. The value of their house had dropped to a point below the amount that they owe on it, and a second property is in default.

Bale's wife said in an online blog that he was disappointed at being passed over for a promotion, and that he had hoped for a posting in Germany, Italy or Hawaii - some place other than Iraq or Afghanistan.

His lawyer said he will discuss with his client the possibility that Bales suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome that had not been properly diagnosed.

The killings have already strained U.S.-Afghan relations and provoked angry reactions throughout Afghanistan.


Friends, Neighbors Stunned at Soldier Rampage Accusation
This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs