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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora