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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 7:10 p.m., Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trial ordered for Hawaii-based soldier in Iraq killing

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

A Schofield Barracks soldier accused of shooting an unarmed Iraqi man will be tried at court-martial on a lesser charge than the premeditated murder charge he originally faced, the Army said today.

Spc. Christopher Shore, 25, of Winder, Ga., will face the lesser offense of murder as defined as an "act inherently dangerous to another," according to the Army.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, made the decision "based on all the evidence from the investigation" and a preliminary hearing in October, according to a release.

The decision goes against the recommendation of Lt. Col. Raul Gonzalez, the officer who presided over the Article 32 hearing, which determined whether Shore should be tried.

Gonzalez had said that Shore should not be tried for murder, but that he should be court-martialed for aggravated assault.

Shore and Sgt. 1st Class Trey Corrales, 34, of San Antonio, were accused of shooting an unarmed Iraqi man on June 23 after a raid in the village of al Saheed outside Kirkuk looking for insurgents planting roadside bombs.

The Army accused Shore of shooting the Iraqi after being ordered to do so by Corrales. Both faced premeditated murder charges.

Gonzalez said there was "overwhelming evidence" showing Corrales shot at the man multiple times with the intention of killing him. Corrales waived his right to a hearing prior to a decision on whether he should be court-martialed for the Iraqi's killing.

"Reasonable grounds do not exist to believe that the accused committed premeditated murder," Gonzalez wrote of Shore.

Shore's arraignment and trial are expected to take place at Wheeler Army Airfield in January or February.

The Army also said that an additional charge with two specifications was preferred against Corrales.

Corrales now also is accused of "wrongfully soliciting another soldier to shoot an unarmed, wounded Iraqi who had previously been shot" by Corrales, the Army said.

Additionally, Corrales is charged with "wrongfully impeding an investigation into the incident by causing an AK-47 rifle to be placed near the victim after he had been shot," according to an Army release.

The Army said the additional specifications will be forwarded to Corrales' brigade commander who will make a recommendation to Mixon. Mixon will make the final decision.

A fellow soldier testified at the Article 32 hearing for Shore that Corrales pulled the Iraqi man out of a house that had been secured and told him to run.

As the confused Iraqi started backing up, the soldier said, he saw Corrales start to raise his weapon. The soldier said he turned, not wanting to see what came next, and heard up to five shots.

After being ordered to "finish" the wounded Iraqi by Corrales, Shore said, "I had to act. I had to do something."

He said he fired two shots off to the side of the Iraqi's head in the dirt without Corrales seeing that he did not shoot the man. But he also acknowledged that he previously had said he had shot at the Iraqi.

Several soldiers testified that Corrales was a mercurial and tyrannical platoon sergeant who told them to "kill all military-age males" encountered in the village and in the target house.

The soldiers said they did not want to get on Corrales' bad side because he wielded the power to kick them off the tight-knit and prestigious scouts platoon, but a handful of soldiers decided shortly after to report to higher ups what had happened.

There also was testimony that Corrales tried to get the Iraqi man to hold an AK-47 rifle, and that it was planted near him after he had been shot.

Both Corrales and Shore appeared in uniform at a recent remembrance ceremony at Schofield for 41 soldiers who were killed on the 15-month deployment that ended in October. Ten of those soldiers were killed in an Aug. 22 helicopter crash, and some were expected to be witnesses in the cases against Shore and Corrales.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.