FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) — A soldier who survived a bullet creasing his head during shootings that left two of his Army roommates dead at their base camp in Iraq told a military judge Friday that he can't remember being shot or who pulled the trigger.
Prosecutors at Fort Stewart have another witness who says that soldier, minutes after being wounded, managed to identify the gunman as Spc. Neftaly Platero, who faces a court martial on charges of premeditated murder. Defense attorneys are asking a military judge to declare that testimony off-limits at Platero's trial because the wounded soldier can't verify the statement.
Platero, of Kingwood, Texas, faces a possible life sentence in the September 23, 2010, slayings of Pfc. Gebrah Noonan and Spc. John Carrillo Jr., who shared a room with the accused soldier at a base camp in Fallujah. The Army has said very little about the case and records from pre-trial hearings held in Iraq have not been released. The most detailed public account yet was given in court Friday by Platero's supervisor, Staff Sgt. Jhamaal Martin.
Martin testified that, a few hours before the shootings, Platero had complained to him about "filthy" conditions in the room he shared with the other soldiers. The sergeant said he inspected their room and found it to be unclean, but felt like Platero was overreacting.
Later that evening while taking a cigarette break, Martin testified, he heard about five gunshots and ran into the building. In the hallway he saw one of their infantry unit's Iraqi interpreters, a man they called Sam, on top of Platero pinning him to the floor.
"I said, 'Sam, what are you fighting my soldier for?'" Martin said. "He said, 'It's not me, Sgt. Martin. He's the bad guy.'"
Martin said he went into Platero's bunk room and immediately smelled gunpowder. He said he found Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn., sprawled bleeding on the floor. Carrillo, 20, of Stockton, Calif., lay bleeding and twitching on his bed, with music still playing on his iPod.
Martin said he started screaming — "What the (expletive) happened!" — when he heard Pfc. Jeffrey Shonk call out to him for help. He testified he found Shonk, who also shared the room, with gunshot wound to his right leg and a bullet wound two-fingers wide creasing his scalp.
"I told him to lay back and stay with me," Martin said. "Then Shonk says, 'He shot us. Platero shot us.'"
Platero's attorney, Guy Womack, says Martin shouldn't be allowed to quote Shonk's word to a jury at the court-martial, which is scheduled to start Feb. 6.
That's because Shonk, who testified Friday by phone from a military hospital, says he doesn't remember the shootings at all.
"Do you recall telling anyone how you received your injuries or who shot you before you left Camp Fallujah?" Capt. Frank Kostik, one of the Army prosecutors, asked Shonk in court.
Shonk replied: "No, sir. I don't remember anything."
The military judge, Lt. Col. Tiernan Dolan, planned to hear more evidence Friday afternoon before considering a ruling.
One statement jurors won't hear is something Martin says Platero told him while being pinned in the hallway after the shootings.
"Sgt. Platero yelled back at me and said, 'They said they were going to kill me,'" Martin told the judge.
However, both defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed the statement amounts to inadmissible hearsay and won't be used in court.
Womack says Platero is innocent and that forensic evidence at the trial should show no blood or gunshot residue was found on him.
Martin, who was the accused soldier's direct supervisor in Iraq, testified he'd never had prior problems.
"Platero was an awesome soldier," the sergeant said.