Lawyer: Afghanistan suspect was loath to deploy

GENE JOHNSON Associated Press Published:

SEATTLE (AP) -- The U.S. soldier accused of slaughtering 16 Afghan villagers last weekend had been reluctant to leave on his fourth deployment and had been staying in a camp where someone was severely wounded the day before the shooting, a Seattle lawyer said Thursday.

"We have been informed that at this small base that he was at, somebody was gravely injured the day before the alleged incident -- gravely injured, and that affected all of the soldiers," said the lawyer, John Henry Browne.

Browne declined to release his client's name, citing concerns for the soldier's family, which is under protection on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma. But he did say that the soldier had previously been injured twice, and he and his family thought he was done fighting.

"He wasn't thrilled about going on another deployment," Browne said. "He was told he wasn't going back, and then he was told he was going."

He told reporters that he's met with the wife and other family members of the 38-year-old staff sergeant.

"They were totally shocked," he said. "He's never said anything antagonistic about Muslims. He's in general very mild-mannered."

Browne said he knew little of the facts of the shooting, but disputed reports that a combination of alcohol, stress and domestic issues caused him to snap. He said the family said they were unaware of any drinking problem, and described the couple's marriage as "fabulous."

The soldier is suspected of going on a shooting rampage in villages near his base in southern Afghanistan early Sunday, killing nine children and seven other civilians and then burning some of their bodies. The shooting, which followed a controversial Quran-burning incident involving U.S. soldiers, has outraged Afghan officials.

The suspect was flown out of Afghanistan on Wednesday evening to what officials describe as a pretrial confinement facility in Kuwait. Officials have anonymously described him as a father of two who has been in the military for 11 years. He has served three tours in Iraq and began his first deployment to Afghanistan in December.

The soldier asked to be represented by Browne when he was taken into custody, the lawyer said.

Browne said he's spoken with the soldier, but did not discuss the substance of the allegations. He said the soldier had no prior events in his Army dossier indicating misbehavior.

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Associated Press writer Robert Burns contributed from Washington.

Gene Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle