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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, August 6, 2004

Hawai'i soldier convicted in killing of Iraqi civilian

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Pfc. Edward L. Richmond Jr., a Schofield Barracks soldier who shot an unarmed cowherder in the back of the head, yesterday became the first U.S. soldier convicted in the death of an Iraqi civilian during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Richmond, 21, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a military court-martial, sentenced to three years in jail and dishonorably discharged from the Army.

"My husband is taking it hard, and so am I. We're trying to be strong for our son," Richmond's mother, Darce Richmond, said yesterday in a telephone interview from her home in Gonzales, La. "I still stand by him, but it is out of my hands. Maybe we can get something lessened (on appeal), and, if not, we'll survive it for three years and support him."

During the final day of his court-martial, Richmond admitted that he wanted to kill the Iraqi, Army officials said.

The government's key witness, Sgt. Jeffrey Waruch, testified Wednesday that he and Richmond saw Muhamad Husain Kadir about an hour before the Feb. 28 shooting as their unit was conducting a raid in Kadir's village. Waruch also testified that Kadir didn't look suspicious, nor did he appear to have a weapon, the Army said.

Waruch testified that he and Richmond were ordered by radio to detain all of the men of Kadir's village. He said that when they approached Kadir to flex-cuff him, the man resisted.

Waruch said that once Kadir was handcuffed, he began to lead him away and Kadir stumbled.

Waruch then testified that Richmond shot Kadir in the back of the head from about six feet away, the Army said.

Two government witnesses, both unidentified by the Army, said they heard Richmond talk about wanting to kill an Iraqi.

The first testified that Richmond requested to shoot Kadir well before the radio message to detain men from the village. The second testified he also had heard Richmond talk about wanting to kill an Iraqi.

Richmond claimed that he never saw Kadir handcuffed and that he shot him in defense of Waruch.

The government countered that Richmond admitted he never saw Kadir with a weapon, the Army said. The Army also said Richmond admitted asking to shoot Kadir.

A panel of five officers and five enlisted men deliberated 90 minutes before convicting Richmond on the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter in the killing of Kadir, who died near Taal Al Jal.

Richmond originally was charged with unpremeditated murder, and a conviction on that charge would have resulted in a mandatory term of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

As part of his sentence, Richmond also will forfeit his pay and will be demoted. He is the third U.S. soldier charged with murder during the war in Iraq, the Army said.

Richmond is with his father, Edward Sr., in Tikrit, Iraq, and will not be confined until after he is taken to Kuwait, his mother said. She said her son will remain in Kuwait for as long as a month before being transferred to a U.S. military prison.

The appeal process started immediately, she said, and she is not sure when her husband will come home.

Richmond said her son said, "'I was going to be in the Army for three more years anyway.'"

Darce Richmond hopes her son will be eligible for early parole. She said she is saddened by the fact that when he gets out, he will be a convicted felon with a dishonorable discharge on his record.

Richmond is assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, at Schofield Barracks. He will be taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to await transport to prison.

Reach Peter Boylan at 535-8110 or pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.