A Las Vegas soldier has been charged with shooting and killing an Afghan civilian in one of three premeditated murders that Army officers allege were committed this year by five soldiers from an armored vehicle combat team, an Army spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Spc. Michael S. Wagnon II is accused of using his rifle to shoot and kill Marach Agha on or about Feb. 22 near Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
The 29-year-old infantryman from Las Vegas also is accused of trying to obstruct investigators in the case last month “by obtaining a hard drive which contained evidence of murders and asking another soldier to erase” it, according to a Uniform Code of Military Justice charge sheet.
The charge sheet was signed Tuesday by an officer at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, Wash. The officer’s name, rank and unit were blacked out.
Base spokeswoman Army Lt. Col. Tamara Parker said Wagnon, Pfc. Andrew Holmes and Spc. Adam Winfield have been in pretrial confinement since they returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Monday.
When asked about a possible motive in Wagnon’s case, Parker said, “That’s something that will be revealed as the case goes forward.”
She said that because there is no bail system under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a military magistrate will review the charges and decide by Friday whether to keep Wagnon and the others confined.
“Each case is handled individually,” Parker said by phone late Wednesday. “A commander will make a decision on whether to conduct an Article 32 investigation, the equivalent of a civilian grand jury.”
It could not be determined whether defense counsel has been appointed for all five men.
The Stryker brigade, which first deployed to Afghanistan in July, has seen heavy fighting against Taliban insurgents and suffered 33 combat-related deaths. Two other brigade members have died of illness and a third in a vehicular accident.
Holmes, 19, of Boise, Idaho, is charged with killing Gul Mudin in January by throwing a grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle near Forward Operating Base Ramrod.
Winfield, 21, of Cape Coral, Fla., is charged with killing Mullah Adahdad on or about May 2 by throwing a grenade at him and using a rifle to shoot him near the base.
Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, 25, of Billings, Mont., and Spc. Jeremy Morlock, 22, of Wasilla, Alaska, were charged this month with three counts each of premeditated murder in the Afghan civilian deaths and one count of assault.
The charge sheets allege Morlock hit and kicked a person on May 5 and spat in a victim’s face. Gibbs also is accused of hitting and kicking a person on that date.
All identifying information is redacted, including names, gender, number of victims and whether they were civilians
Morlock, who was charged June 4, is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Gibbs was charged June 8 in Kuwait and will be transported to Lewis-McChord within days, Parker said.
The most severe penalties for a premeditated murder conviction is life in prison or the death penalty.
All five soldiers are assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division.
Wagnon was born in California in 1980 and listed his hometown as Las Vegas. He joined the Army in February 2003 in Salt Lake City, Parker said.
After training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to Germany.
His Afghanistan tour was his third combat deployment. He served in Iraq twice, for a year ending in February 2005 and from August 2006 to November 2007, according to Army records. He was assigned to Lewis-McChord in April 2008.
Parker said she did not know where Wagnon attended high school. Clark County School District officials were unavailable to check records late Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308.