Update: After allegedly killing Afghan civilians in a first village, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales came back to his combat outpost. At around 2 a.m., he flipped on the light switch in the quarters of some other soldiers and began talking about what he had done and where he was headed, according to the testimony of Sgt. Jason McClaughlin.
Bales said he had killed some military-age males, McClaughlin testified. Then, Bales drew up close and asked McLaughlin to smell his gun. “His weapon was right in front of my face,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin said he reacted with disbelief.
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Bales left McLaughlin’s quarters but soon returned, according to the testimony. This time, Bales said he was heading to a second village, and would be back by around 5 a.m. “Then he takes my hands, and says ‘take care of my kids,'” recalled McLaughlin.
“And, I’m like , ‘no, Bob, take of your own kids.’ ”
After Bales left, McLaughlin said, he drifted back off to sleep, then woke shortly before 3 a.m. to take a scheduled turn at guard duty. When he got to the guard post, McLaughlin said, another soldier reported hearing gun shots outside the outpost during his time on watch.
About five minutes later, Afghan soldiers arrived with an interpreter. They told told him about a soldier who had come back to the base, and then left.
McLaughlin said he then recalled his earlier conversation with Bales, and feared the sergeant might be that soldier.
“I ran to see if Staff Sgt. Bales was in his room,” McLaughlin testified.
He found the door open, and the light on.
“Staff Sgt. Bales wasn’t there,” McLaughlin testified.
Update: Cpl. David Godwin, a 3rd Brigade soldier, testified that he was one of the first to meet Staff Sgt. Robert Bales outside the base gate when Bales returned from what prosecutors allege was a killing spree in an Afghan village.
Godwin described Bales’ demeanor as “kind of like he got his hand caught in the cookie jar. ” Godwin also quoted Bales as saying: “I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was doing the right thing.”
Godwin said Bale’s response “… was kind of surreal. I kind of thought that Bob (Bales) thought … he was doing this to better us.”
Godwin served under Bales and was one of the soldiers who had been drinking with him on March 10, the night before the killings. Godwin testified that Bales and a third soldier had the equivalent of one or two shots of whiskey and that they were not seriously impaired or slurring their words.
While they drank, Godwin said, they watched the 2004 movie “Man on Fire,” which stars Denzel Washington in a thriller involving a former CIA operative turned bodyguard who goes on a killing rampage after a child is abducted.
After they finished drinking, Godwin said he accompanied Bales to his quarters, and thought that he was going to go to bed.
Somewhere between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. the next morning , Godwin was woken up by another soldier. He and another soldier went outside the gate of the outpost and called for Bales. Sometime before 5 a.m,, Godwin said he saw Bales walking down a road that led to the base.
The hearing for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales opened Monday morning with the Army prosecutor offering a chilling summary of the events of March 11, when Bales allegedly murdered 16 Afghan villagers, mostly women and children.
Lt. Col. Joseph Morse said that testimony at the pretrial hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord will show that Bales was deliberate, methodical and “lucid and coherent” as he went on a killing spree during a five-hour period. Bales, a Lewis-McChord infantryman who was assisting a Special Forces unit, returned to a small base in the Kandahar District of Afghanistan shortly before 5 a.m., according to the prosecutor.
Prior to leaving the base, Bales had been drinking Jack Daniels and Diet Pepsi with other soldiers and had a conversation with a Special Forces soldier expressing his concerns that the unit had not responded forcefully enough to an IED attack.
According to the timeline laid out by the prosecutor, Bales first walked some 600 meters north to murder civilians in one village. Then, he returned to the base and even told one soldier that “I just shot some people.” But that soldier thought Bales was kidding, and did not act to restrain him.
Then Bales exited the the base a second time, and finished off the shootings, according to the prosecutor.
A video surveillance camera from a helium balloon captured images of Bales, with a cape across his shoulder, approaching the base and being apprehended.
Morse said Bales appeared surprised by his detention.
His first reaction was, “Are you (expletive) kidding me,” Morse said. According to the prosecutor, Bales also asked a Special Forces soldier, “Did you rat me out?”
Morse says that Bales repeatedly confessed to the murders after his return to the base. The prosecutor said Bales did not show remorse but did fear that his actions might have let down the Special Forces unit he was assigned to in Afghanistan.
Morse said the evidence against Bales also includes a DNA match of blood from one of the female victims on the boots, pants and underwear worn by Bales.