Jury Finds Fort Bragg Shooter Guilty of Premeditated Murder
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) _ An Army sergeant who killed an officer and wounded 18 other soldiers in a sniper attack was found guilty today of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty.
The guilty verdict was unanimous against Sgt. William Kreutzer, whose lawyers had argued that premeditation was not proven.
The military jury deliberated for slightly less than two hours before finding Kreutzer guilty of premeditated murder in the Oct. 27 death of Maj. Stephen Badger.
The panel of five officers and seven enlisted soldiers also found Kreutzer guilty on 18 charges of attempted murder for shooting at his fellow soldiers as they gathered for a morning run.
One of the shooting victims, Spc. Joseph Molon, 25, called it ``a well-deserved verdict.″
``It proves one point; ... that inevitably you’re responsible for your own actions,″ Molon said.
Because the jurors’ finding on the murder count was unanimous, Kreutzer becomes eligible for the death penalty, and jurors began deliberating his sentence after the verdicts were announced.
Kreutzer had pleaded guilty to Badger’s murder before the court-martial, but prosecutors refused to accept the plea and decided to pursue the death penalty by proving premeditation.
Defense attorneys argued that Kreutzer had received mental help in the past, and that fellow soldiers ignored threats he had made before the sniper attack.
``Did he have a premeditated design to kill or a plan to do something else, to kill himself or cry for help?″ defense attorney Capt. James Martin asked in his closing argument. ``His cry for help was not answered.″
In his closing argument, prosecutor Capt. Paul Barden told jurors that Kreutzer loaded his magazines with ammunition the night before the attack, and even selected special bullets.
While Kreutzer, 27, of Clinton, Md., had left a suicide note, he had more in mind than killing himself, Barden said.
While loading his clips, Kreutzer carefully selected hollow-point and tracer bullets for his AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16, so he could aim easily and cause great pain, he said.
``If suicide were his only motive, he could have fired that round into his own head instead of Maj. Badger,″ said Barden.
During testimony Monday, Maj. C.J. Diebold, chief psychiatrist at Fort Bragg, testified that after Kreutzer’s arrest psychiatrists determined he had a personality disorder that included paranoid and narcissistic traits.
Kreutzer talked often about shooting people, said William Knight, a former sergeant who served with Kreutzer in the 82nd Airborne Division in the Sinai Peninsula in 1994 and at Fort Bragg until last year.
Another comrade testified that Kreutzer boasted of his plans the night before the sniper attack.
Knight said Kreutzer had once talked about watching a gathering of generals and said there wasn’t enough security to keep him from shooting them if he wanted.
``What was in his mind was how easily he could kill these guys,″ Knight said.
During the Sinai assignment, Kreutzer talked about wanting to kill the members of his squad because fellow soldiers put sand in his boots, tripped him and called him names like ``Crazy Kreutzer,″ Knight said.
Knight said he reported the problem and Kreutzer was removed from the squad and given counseling. But when Kreutzer returned to Fort Bragg in July 1994, he had different leaders who did not intervene when the harassment continued.
Kreutzer called a soldier in his squad the night before the attack and said he was loading weapons and preparing to shoot at a formation of his brigade the next day, another soldier testified.
Spc. Burl Mays said he didn’t take the threat seriously until the next day when Kreutzer didn’t show up for the formation. Mays said he told platoon and company leaders, but his concerns were dismissed.