The New York Daily News is reporting that the Army is considering a new investigation into a firefight in which a first lieutenant mistakenly shot one of his troops and left him to die in an Iraqi field–later covered up by commanders.
This marks the Army’s third investigation into the death of Pfc. David Sharrett II, 27, of 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. Sharrett had not activated his infrared “bud light” before he was shot in an intense pre-dawn firefight by 1st Lt. Timothy Hanson, of Janesville, Wis.
Hanson left Sharrett, “bleeding to death for 80 minutes.”
Pfc. Danny Kimme, 27, of Fisher, Ill., and Cpl. John Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, N.Y., were also killed in the enemy ambush.
Doug Kimme, a Champaign, Ill. police officer and the father of Danny Kimme, told NPR the operation was botched from the beginning:
“Before dawn on Jan. 16, 2008, the unit conducted an operation to clear al-Qaida fighters from the orange groves around a village called Bichigan. Six men had been observed leaving the village and taking cover in a thicket in an irrigation ditch.”
“A team of eight soldiers arrived near the ditch by helicopter. They walked up on the thicket and, as they surrounded it, the militants opened fire on them with rifles and grenades. In a matter of seconds, the area was lit up by deafening explosions. The soldiers’ night-vision goggles were intermittently ‘whited out’ by the blaze of light. Kimme and Spc. John Sigsbee were killed almost immediately. Two other soldiers were wounded.”
“As Pfc. David H. Sharrett II tried to move to a better position, his team leader, 1st Lt. Timothy Hanson, mistook him for an enemy fighter and shot him. A U.S. helicopter and other soldiers from Sharrett’s platoon joined the fight, killing the insurgents and capturing their position about 50 minutes later. The lieutenant left the scene in a helicopter with two of his wounded men, but Sharrett lay bleeding as his fellow soldiers searched for him. He was not found until about 90 minutes after he was shot, and by the time he was evacuated to a field hospital, he had died from his wound.”
“Sharrett and Kimme cite a list of mistakes that were documented by the Army investigator. There was no need for the soldiers to approach the enemy position in the dark, Kimme says, ‘there was no hurry. They owned these guys.’ In other words, the regiment knew where the six insurgents were hiding and had them under surveillance by helicopter. The insurgents were pinned down. They could have been forced to surrender or killed from a distance. Kimme says the general consensus among soldiers he spoke with “was that [McCarthy] wanted those prisoners, he wanted his trophies,” and that the effort to capture them was hasty.”
“There was also no reason to assume that the insurgents were unarmed. “
The News’ James Gordon Meek now reports that commanders approved Hanson to leave the scene on a chopper under the mistaken belief he was taking two wounded soldiers with him.
Instead, a never-disclosed “a senior-level review concluded last year that Hanson “had no military reason to leave” the battlefield with his team’s only working radio.”
The review found that Hanson did not aid his wounded men in the air or at a hospital, where a pilot reported the lieutenant “refused to get off” the chopper. The Army has never disclosed the results of last year’s probe.
Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins told the News it hasn’t been decided whether there will be a new investigation or what its scope might be.[via New York Daily News and National Public Radio]