Military drops charges in ‘friendly fire’ death of SA marine
Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt, 24, killed in October 2011
SAN ANTONIO - The military has dropped all criminal charges against a U. S. tank commander who gave the orders leading to the “friendly fire” death of a San Antonio marine, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper is reporting that the charges against Sgt. Jason Byrd, which include negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, have been dismissed “without prejudice.” That means they can be reinstated at a later date if additional evidence surfaces.
The charges stemmed from the death of Lance Cpl. Benjamin Schmidt, 24, who was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan last October.
Schmidt was the son of David Schmidt, M.D., the team doctor for the San Antonio Spurs; and Becky Whetstone, a former columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.
Within weeks of his death, the military released information to the family indicating that the shooting was being investigated as “friendly fire.”
In January, Whetstone said that she had been informed that charges had been filed against Byrd, who gave the order to shoot.
Whetstone said she had learned that the tank’s gunner spotted what he thought was the muzzle of the enemy’s weapon off in the distance.
He then informed Byrd, who gave orders to fire at the target, which, in reality, was Schmidt.
Whetstone said then that military officials had informed her that both of the marines had failed to follow proper procedure, which called for them to look through high powered scopes to confirm what they saw with their naked eyes.
At the time, she said: “There's no joy in this person being punished. Our family has talked about the fact that we all forgive this man."
However, Whetstone said that she felt Byrd should be prosecuted if he failed to follow procedure.
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