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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Murder charge is unjust, soldier says

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Schofield Barracks soldier facing a court martial on a charge of murdering a handcuffed and unarmed Iraqi cowherder said he shot the man to defend another soldier.

In a telephone interview Monday night from Kirkuk Air Base, Pfc. Edward L. Richmond Jr., 20, talked about the circumstances surrounding the death of Muhamad Husain Kadir.

Richmond, in his first public statements about his case, said he did not know when he fired that the man was handcuffed or unarmed.

"It was a reaction," he said. "I fired in self-defense of another soldier, in which deadly force is authorized."

Army officials yesterday wouldn't discuss the case.

"Because this is a legal proceeding, it would not be appropriate for us to comment on Pfc. Richmond's remarks. It is important that the case be allowed to move forward free of distractions under the presumption that Pfc. Richmond is innocent until proven guilty," said Maj. Neal O'Brien, an Army spokesman.

Richmond is the third U.S. soldier to be court-martialed on a murder charge in the current Iraq war, according to the Army.

Richmond said he and his partner were about 100 yards away from the rest of his convoy Feb. 28 searching for terrorists when they approached Muhamad Husain Kadir. When his partner tried to detain Kadir, Kadir resisted violently, Richmond said.

Richmond said Kadir had not been searched and he could not see during the struggle if his partner had flex-cuffed Kadir. He said he shot Kadir in the head when he lunged at his partner.

According to Army reports, the middle-age Iraqi man was running and "resisting apprehension." The Army's case against Richmond was based largely on the contention that Kadir was flex-cuffed at the time he was shot.

Richmond's court martial is to start Aug. 1 in Tikrit. He will be tried on a charge of unpremeditated murder. If convicted, he faces a mandatory life in prison with the possibility for parole. Originally from Gonzales, La., Richmond is assigned to headquarters company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment.

Richmond's lawyer, Capt. Jennifer Crawford, who is in Iraq, could not be reached for comment.

Richmond said he has not been detained, but his weapons have been confiscated and his movement limited to Kirkuk Air Base.

Richmond would not name the soldier who was with him that day and said he does not know if the man will testify on his behalf.

He said he did not know whether Kadir was armed because he had not been searched.

Richmond said that before his convoy went out on patrol in Taal Al Jal, about 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk, on the day of the shooting, commanding officers in the convoy instructed soldiers to shoot detainees if they tried to run.

"They told us, 'If anybody tries to run today, shoot them'. That was put out before we even left," Richmond said. "As an E3 (private first class) it's not my place to question, but I hadn't heard that before (while stationed in Iraq)."

In making his decision to send the case to the court-martial trial, Maj. Gen. John R.S. Batiste acted on a recommendation made by an Army investigator and evidence provided by Richmond's attorney.

According to the Army, on Feb. 28 soldiers from Richmond's battalion were conducting a morning search for known terrorists in Taal Al Jal, near Al Huwijah — a city of more than 85,000 people, mostly Sunni Muslims — about 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk.

He said most of the commanding officers that he runs into on base treat him like he is "innocent until proven guilty" but there are soldiers who give him a hard time.

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