News

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
Mike O'Sullivan

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.
Comments
     
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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs