Paratrooper Convicted of Murder in Fort Bragg Sniper Attack
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) _ An Army paratrooper who claimed his fellow soldiers called him crazy and pulled pranks on him was convicted of premeditated murder Tuesday for killing an officer in a sniper attack on his own unit during morning calisthenics.
The court-martial jury that convicted Sgt. William Kreutzer then began hearing evidence on whether to sentence him to death. Defense attorneys read a statement in which Kreutzer tried to explain why he did it.
``My reasons then don’t make good sense now,″ the statement read. ``I wanted to send a message to the chain of command that had forgotten the welfare of the common soldier.
``I don’t know why I thought my actions would accomplish this. ... I’m truly sorry for the damage I caused.″
Also at the sentencing hearing, one of the 18 soldiers wounded in the attack Oct. 27 testified from a wheelchair because he was paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet fired by Kreutzer.
``There’s nothing that I can do on my own anymore,″ said Chief Warrant Officer Abraham Castillo, a former helicopter pilot. ``Somebody has to be with me at all times. ... I can barely hold an eating utensil.″
Any execution would be by lethal injection. The last time the Army executed a soldier was in 1961.
The jury deliberated for slightly less than two hours before finding Kreutzer guilty of premeditated murder in the death of Maj. Stephen Badger. Kreutzer was also convicted on attempted murder charges for each of the 18 fellow members of the 82nd Airborne Division who were wounded as 1,300 members of the elite unit set out on a four-mile run before daybreak.
The shooting took place as the soldiers stood in formation in a small athletic field illuminated by eight banks of lights. The shots, marked by muzzle flashes and tracer rounds, came out of the darkness from a foxhole on the edge of the woods.
Kreutzer, 27, of Clinton, Md., had pleaded guilty to Badger’s murder before the court-martial. But prosecutors refused to accept the plea, deciding to seek the death penalty by proving premeditation.
Kreutzer’s lawyers contended he was under stress and suffering from a personality disorder.
Prosecutors argued that Kreutzer carefully planned the attack because he was angry at members of his squad.
Kreutzer talked often about shooting people, said William Knight, a former sergeant who served with Kreutzer in the 82nd Airborne in the Sinai Peninsula in 1994 and at Fort Bragg until last year.
During the Sinai assignment, Kreutzer talked about wanting to kill members of his squad because they put sand in his boots, and rigged cords to trip him on his way to the latrine during the night, Knight said.
Kreutzer, who loved guns and had no social life, also was called names like ``Crazy Kreutzer″ and ``Silence of the Lambs,″ said defense attorney Capt. Stephen Stokes.
Prosecutor Capt. Paul Barden said Kreutzer loaded his magazines the night before the attack with hollow-point and tracer bullets for his AR-15, the civilian version of the M-16, so he could aim easily in the morning fog and cause great pain.
The defense rested late Tuesday afternoon after calling five witnesses and submitting statements on Kreutzer’s behalf from five other people. Jurors were scheduled to begin deliberations on Kreutzer’s sentence Wednesday.
The last defense witness at the sentencing hearing was Kreutzer’s mother.
``I couldn’t believe that my son could do such a thing,″ said Kathleen Kreutzer. ``Something was very wrong for this to have happened.″