A 38-year-old U.S. Marine, Sgt. Gus Covarrubias, is under investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service after he told his hometown newspaper, the Las Vega Review-Journal, that he had executed a prisoner in Iraq.
“I went behind him and shot him in the back of the head,” he said. “Twice.”
Then, he said, he found the man’s partner outside trying to escape.
“I shot him, too.”
“I’m not vindictive,” he said.
“And I might get in trouble for telling you this, but I take it very personally when you do that to my family. The Marines are my family.”
[…]He took stock of the location of the grenade strike and its trajectory, figuring it must have been fired from a nearby house. He sneaked inside. Upstairs, he said, he found the Special Republican Guard member with the grenade launcher next to him.
He said he ordered the man to stop, forced him to turn around, and removed his black beret. He shot him twice in the back of the head.
He took the man’s military ID as a souvenir.
Outside, the man’s partner was escaping. Covarrubias said he chased him down and killed him as well. He took the man’s ID and his AK-47 assault rifle.
“This,” he said in the interview, holding up the two ID cards, “is justice.” </blockquote>
According to John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, the inquiry would revolve around the question of whether Covarrubias killed a prisoner of war:
“As soon as (the Iraqi soldier) had surrendered and obeyed a command to turn around, he was no longer an enemy combatant. He was a POW,” said Pike, one of the nation’s leading civilian experts on the U.S. military. “We do not allow our soldiers to execute POWs at their own discretion. And this, as described, looks like the summary execution of a POW.”
Pike said if Covarrubias is not cleared of wrongdoing, the killing as he described it could result in a criminal charge of “failure to accept surrender” or the more serious charge of murder.
“It could be interpreted either way,” Pike said. “Normally, when we think about shooting somebody in the back of the head, you think about that as murder. But I think that soldiers who have experienced combat are going to look at it and see it as a failure to accept surrender.”
Pike said he wasn’t aware of any similar incidents during the conflict in Iraq that have resulted in such inquiries. He said he was surprised by Covarrubias’ candor.
“These kinds of incidents are a lot more common than anyone is ever going to let on. But it’s usually not the sort of thing people talk about,” Pike said. “The Iraqis quite possibly did it to us, and I’m not surprised we did it to them, but it’s not supposed to happen.”</blockquote>