Military families take solace in the presumption that their deployed loved one is safe while on a U.S. military base, even in the most dangerous of combat zones.
But in May 2009, that illusion was shattered when a U.S. soldier allegedly went on a shooting rampage at a mental health clinic on Camp Liberty, a base located near Baghdad. Five people were killed: a Navy doctor, an Army doctor and three enlisted soldiers.
Sgt. John Russell of the 54th Engineering Battalion was taken into custody shortly after the shooting. Three years later, charges have been filed against him. No date for his court-martial has been set.
Russell faces five charges of premeditated murder, one aggravated assault charge and one attempted murder charge. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
The shooting spree on Camp Liberty broadened the burgeoning spotlight on the toll the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were taking on service members: in 2009, when the wars were 6 and 8 years old respectively, many troops were already on their third or fourth deployment. Russell was on his third.
In 2011, a military judge recommended Russell not face execution due to mental illness, though the judge did say he felt Russell should be held accountable for his actions. Government attorneys argue that Russell was coherent enough to understand what he was doing.
According to the military, Russell had been involved in an argument at the mental health clinic, and had his weapon taken away from him. Russell allegedly got ahold of another weapon and then returned to the clinic.
Killed in the shooting were Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52; Dr. Matthew Houseal; Pfc. Michael Edward Yates Jr., 19; Sgt. Christian E. Bueno-Galdos, 25; and Spc. Jacob Barton, 20. It was the deadliest solider-on-soldier violence of the Iraq War.
Russell is being held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, 40 miles south of Seattle.
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