Posted : Wednesday Jan 9, 2008
FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Army is investigating possible war crimes after a Fort Carson soldier facing first-degree murder charges in the slayings of two Iraq war veterans told investigators he and another soldier randomly fired at Iraqi civilians.
Pfc. Bruce Bastien Jr. and two former soldiers face charges in the December shooting death of Spc. Kevin Shields, while Bastien and one of those former soldiers face charges in the Aug. 4 shooting death of Pfc. Robert James.
Fort Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt confirmed the Army investigation detailed in a motion filed by prosecutors Tuesday seeking to combine the two slayings into one case.
Bastien said he and another soldier used stolen AK47 military rifles to shoot at civilians while their unit patrolled Baghdad neighborhoods while they were in Iraq.
“The sound of an AK47 is very distinctive,” the motion quotes Bastien as telling Fort Carson Special Agent Kelly Jameson on Dec. 10. “So if there were any questions when the shooting was heard, Bastien said they could claim they were taking on hostile fire.”
Bastien spoke with Jameson, an Army criminal investigator, after his arrest in Shields’ slaying. Attempts to reach Jameson were referred to McNutt, who released a statement saying the allegations were being taken very seriously and would be thoroughly investigated.
Messages left for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command were not immediately returned.
Charged in the death of Shields are Bastien, 21, and former soldiers Louis Edward Bressler, 24, of Charlotte, N.C., and Kenneth Eastridge, 24, of Louisville, Ky. Shields was found dead, with multiple gunshot wounds, early Dec. 1 on a sidewalk near Old Colorado City north of the post.
Bressler and Bastien also face first-degree murder charges in the Aug. 4 death of James, whose bullet-riddled body was found in a car in a bank parking lot near the base.
All three were being held at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center without bond. They are due back in court Jan. 25.
Shields, Bressler, Eastridge and Bastien served together in Iraq with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. The soldiers were in the same platoon of C Company, 2nd Battalion of the 12th Infantry Regiment. All four came home this spring and summer, months earlier than other soldiers in the unit.
James served with Fort Carson’s 43rd Area Support Group and served in Iraq. It was unclear how he knew the suspects, though investigators believe he was killed as part of a robbery. Investigators believe Shields was killed after a fight with one of the men as he celebrated his 24th birthday.
In court documents, Bastien is quoted as saying that he drove while Eastridge would shoot at Iraqi civilians who happened to be along the street.
“Bastien said that he knows that an Iraqi civilian was struck on at least one occasion,” according to the motion.
Calls to the Colorado Springs public defender’s office, which is representing Eastridge and Bastien, went unanswered. An e-mail request for comment was not immediately returned.
Tira Bressler told The Gazette of Colorado Springs that her husband was being “set up” and that he was “wrongfully accused.”
“I talked to my husband. He said ‘Why would I harm a good friend from Iraq?”’ Tira Bressler told The Gazette.
Both Bressler and Eastridge were trained as infantry riflemen. Eastridge was wounded in combat and had received the Purple Heart and Army Achievement medals, Army records show.
Bastien served as a medic, earning the combat medical badge for rendering aid under enemy fire.