WINDER - His hands in his pockets, 25-year-old Spc. Christopher P. Shore paced the street in front of his brother's Winder home Wednesday as he recounted the events of the night that led to his being accused of murder.
"It was the same as hundreds of other missions I had been on - except for the outcome."
Shore and his commanding officer Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales, of Texas, are charged with one count each of premeditated murder in the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian man.
Wednesday, Shore learned a U.S. Army investigator has recommended murder charges against him be dropped and replaced with a charge of aggravated assault.
"I was excited, but everybody was asleep so I had to exercise some reservation," said Shore, of when his lawyer called him at midnight Tuesday with the news.
Shore is home on leave, spending time with his daughters and family. Shore's mother, Debra Kessler says her son seems "drained."
"He's not a little boy anymore," Kessler said. "He said if he went to jail with his head high because he knows what he did and didn't do."
Shore calls himself and his platoon the eyes and ears of military intelligence. He goes out in three- to six-man teams, sometimes disguised as bushes and other elements, to scout the area for data.
"We count the number of cars, how many windows have blinds and how many have curtains, and we give the information to military intelligence," Shore said.
On June 23, after a bombing incident, Shore said his platoon got called up to root out the bombers near the city of Kirkuk, about 155 miles north of Baghdad.
"We'd had nothing but trouble out of that village for a year," Shore said. "Four guys ran into a house. We'd had our eyes on that house for a long time.
Under the military's rules of engagement, the four men would have been taken as prisoners and turned over to military police.
Corrales fired on one of the four men, Shore said, leaving him mortally wounded. Corrales ordered Shore to "finish him off," Shore said.
"I moved my gun over to the side and fired twice," Shore said. "The man was dying, there was no point in shooting him. There's no question he was a terrorist, but the way he died was wrong."
Shore said he and four other soldiers reported Corrales' actions to the company commander.
Col. Raul Gonzales in October presided over an Article 32 hearing to determine if there was sufficient evidence to warrant a court martial, the military equivalent of a trial.
Michael Waddington, Shore's lawyer, said Gonzales says there is not evidence to prove Shore committed premeditated murder.
A soldier commits an assault when he shoots in someone's direction, even if he doesn't intend to hit him, Waddington said.
"Our main objective was to get the charges down from homicide to a lower level," Waddington said, adding the lesser charge carries a maximum of seven years in prison.
At his hearing, Shore testified he was afraid for his life if he didn't shoot, Waddington said.
Some of Corrales' soldiers had recently burned to death and he was suffering under the stress of war, Shore said.
Gonzales said there was 'overwhelming evidence' showing Corrales shot at the man multiple times with the intention of killing him, Waddington said. Corrales waived his right to a hearing prior to a decision whether he should be court-martialed.
Gonzales also recommended the Army investigate the actions of Lt. Col. Michael Browder, Shore's battalion commander, Waddington said. Browder was relieved of command in Iraq after the man was killed, but has not been charged.
Shore is a member of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in the 25th Infantry Division that returned to Hawaii in October from a 15-month deployment to Iraq. Shore's entire company is now on a month leave. He started his career by parachuting into Afghanistan just after 9/11. If cleared, he plans to remain in the Army and hopes to one day enter the Special Forces.
"It's not over, yet," Waddington said. "We have a good fight ahead of us."