Soldier guilty in barracks killing

Christmas Day shooting involved heavy drinking


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A member of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a court martial on base Thursday, May 2.

A military judge sentenced Spc. Marshall D. Drake Jr. to 11 years, 9 months in prison for the Christmas, 2012 killing of Pfc. Grant W. Wise in Drake's barracks room. The shooting came after a night of heavy drinking. Drake was also reduced in rank to private, ordered to forfeit all pay and allowances and will receive a dishonorable discharge.

Here's the press release issued today by U.S. Army Alaska Media Relations Chief John Pennell:

Court-Martial results for US v Drake               May 2, 2013

 

     HEADQUARTERS, U.S. ARMY ALASKA, JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON,

Alaska, May 2 - A U.S. Army Alaska Soldier was convicted of involuntary

manslaughter by a military judge in a general court-martial here Thursday,

May 2.

 

     Specialist Marshall D. Drake Jr. was sentenced to be reduced in rank

to private (E-1), forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for 11

years and 9 months, and a dishonorable discharge.

 

     Drake was charged in connection with the death of Private First

Class Grant W. Wise on Dec. 25, 2012.  Drake was formally charged in January

with failing to obey regulations and the negligent killing of Pfc. Wise. He

had pleaded guilty Wednesday, May 1, to charges of failure to obey general

regulations for not registering a firearm and storing it in his barracks

room.

 

     The prosecution, led by Capt. Christopher Chatelain, argued May 1

that Drake had unlawfully killed Wise, by culpable negligence, by shooting

him Dec. 25, 2012. The government provided testimony from an eyewitness to

the shooting, a recording of the subsequent 911 calls, first responders and

experts in firearms and gunshot residue.

 

     The eyewitness, Pvt. 2 David Hubbard, recounted the sequence of

events, saying Drake and Wise came to his barracks room door at about 3:30

a.m. Christmas morning asking for cigarettes. He said they both seemed

intoxicated and told him they had been drinking all night.

 

     He gave the pair some cigarettes, and then went back to bed and back

to sleep, Hubbard testified, but Drake and Wise woke him again at about 6:30

a.m. by banging on his door and calling his name.

 

     Hubbard said he answered the door and went with the pair to Drake's

room down the hall where they sat around listening to music and talking

about their favorite bands. He testified that Wise was sitting on Drake's

bed, Drake was sitting in a low, wooden chair beside the bed and Hubbard was

sitting on a cooler.

 

     He said at some point Drake pulled a pistol from his desk to show

Wise and Hubbard. Drake removed the magazine from the .45-caliber Kimber

1911 Custom II handgun and pulled the gun's slide back, ejecting a round

from the chamber. Hubbard said Drake looked for the bullet but didn't find

it.

 

     After showing them it was empty, Hubbard said Drake then handed the

gun to Wise, who dry-fired the gun by pulling the slide back to cock the

hammer and then pulling the trigger. Wise then handed the gun to Hubbard,

who did the same and handed the weapon back to Drake.

 

     Hubbard said at this point Drake and Wise were laughing and joking

and making sarcastic comments about each other. He said Drake then switched

and started talking in a "tough guy" voice while pointing the pistol at

Wise's face.

 

     Hubbard said Drake pulled the trigger. He heard a loud bang and saw

a flash and saw Wise fall back onto the bed.

 

     "I thought it was a joke," Hubbard testified, "an elaborate prank.

It just didn't seem real."

 

     Hubbard called 911 and made an initial report of the shooting, but

his call was cut off. He called back and reported the details to the 911

operator.

 

     Chatelain played back the 911 recording to the somber courtroom. In

it Hubbard is heard reporting that one soldier had just accidentally shot

another and emergency assistance was needed. In the background, Drake can be

heard screaming and wailing in despair. The prosecutor pointed out one

particular scream from Drake, "I'm going to jail for life!"

 

     The government then called first responders to testify about what

they found when they arrived on the scene. Sgt. Michael Hazelton of the

164th Military Police Company reported finding the pistol on the bed beside

Wise's body. He said he moved the weapon to the kitchen counter.

 

     Army CID Special Agent Thomas Quarles said he inspected the weapon

when he arrived on the scene and found it had a magazine in place, the slide

was forward, the hammer was to the rear and the safety was off.

 

     During cross examination, defense attorney Capt. John Haberland

asked how well the CID agents had searched the barracks room looking for the

shell casing from the shot that killed Wise. Quarles and Special Agent

Bridget Ruddy both acknowledged searching the room meticulously before

finding the casing in the corner of the room.

 

     Haberland then asked if they had found the live round that was

ejected from the pistol when Drake first cleared it before handing it to

Wise earlier. The agents said they did not find a single round, but did find

a box of ammunition.

 

     Firearms and tool-mark examiner Dana Bonar from Army CID in Atlanta,

Ga., testified that she had tested the weapon and all its safety features

were functioning. She also noted the pistol was a single-action weapon, and

would not fire unless the hammer was cocked.

 

     Forensic pathology expert Dr. Meredith Lann from the Alaska Medical

Examiner's office said she conducted Wise's autopsy, and based on her

inspection testified the weapon had been in contact with Wise's face when it

was fired.

 

     As the only defense witness, J. Matney Wyatt, a forensic chemist and

trace evidence specialist said he received and tested three gunshot residue

kits from the scene and found each of the three people in the room tested

positive for gunshot residue.

 

     Wyatt, from the Army Crime Lab in Forest Park, Ga., said a positive

result could from firing the weapon, being near the weapon when it was fired

or touching a surface where there was gunshot residue present. He said the

test results indicated Wise, Drake and Hubbard were either near the weapon

when it was fired or had handled the firearm.

 

     In closing arguments, assistant trial counsel Capt. Tom Warschefesky

pointed back to graphic photographs from the scene and Drake's own

statements recorded on the call to 911.

 

He said Drake acted with more than simple negligence because he had

the unregistered gun in his room, unsecured and loaded. He said Drake failed

to clear the weapon, failed to check the safety, failed to ensure the hammer

of the weapon was down, pointed the weapon at Wise's face and pulled the

trigger. Warschefesky called this culpable negligence and said "Pfc. Wise is

dead because of the acts and omissions of the accused." He asked the judge

to find Drake guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

 

     The defense called the incident a terrible tragedy that ended up in

Wise's death, but argued there was no evidence of negligence on Drake's

part. The defense attacked inconsistencies in Hubbard's testimony, saying

the details of his story simply didn't make sense.

 

     The military judge, Maj. Stefan Wolfe, opted to consider the

evidence and closing statements overnight and returned the next morning to

render his decision. He found Drake guilty of all charges and after an

emotional sentencing hearing involving testimony from Wise's family and

several soldiers who knew and had worked with Drake, Wolfe issued his

sentence.

 

     Pfc. Wise, from Fairport, N.Y., joined the Army in October 2011 and

attended Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga.  He served at Fort Bragg, N.C.

before being assigned as an infantryman with the 4th Brigade Combat Team

(Airborne) here in September 2012. He was 25 years old.

 

     Drake, 23, of Mount Pleasant, S.C., joined the Army in October 2009,

graduated from Basic Training at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to the

4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division here in March 2010.

He deployed to Afghanistan from December 2011 to October 2012.

 

    

 

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