Army shreds documents on friendly fire deaths
John Byrne
Published: Thursday November 20, 2008

Print This  Email This

In late 2006, two American soldiers from Fort Carson died in Iraq. The army said the privates were killed by enemy action. But in October of this year, Salon revealed that the two men had in fact been killed by friendly tank fire.

Now, Salon has found that the documents related to the men's deaths were shredded just hours after the story was published.

"Three soldiers at Fort Carson, Colo. -- including two who were present in Ramadi during the friendly fire incident, one of them just feet from where Nelson and Suarez died -- were ordered to shred two boxes full of documents about [Albert] Nelson and [Roger] Suarez," reporter Mark Benjamin writes. "One of the soldiers preserved some of the documents as proof that the shredding occurred and provided them to Salon. All three soldiers, with the assistance of a U.S. senator's office, have since been relocated for their safety."

The night the Salon story ran, Oct. 14, 2008, a staff sergeant told three soldiers to shred two boxes of documents relating to the privates' deaths.

"Staff Sgt. Swinton was in charge that night," Benjamin adds. "He told Kremling, Mitchum and a third soldier who had reported for duty that the evening's labor would include the inglorious task of cleaning out a closet. The first priority, Swinton said, was to shred the thousands of pages of documents in two large copy-paper-size boxes. It would be tedious work, but Swinton was adamant. 'He says, 'I need that paper shredded. That has to be done tonight,'' remembered Kremling, who volunteered to get started on the job."

Privates Nelson and Suarez appear to have been killed by an American tank shell -- not in fact by enemy action as the military claimed.

"Based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and on video and audio recorded by a helmet-mounted camera that captured much of the action that day, my report stated that Nelson and Suarez seemed to have been killed by an American tank shell," Benjamin said. "The shell apparently struck their position on the roof of a two-story ferro-concrete building in Ramadi, Anbar province, Iraq, killing Suarez instantly, mortally wounding Nelson, and injuring several other soldiers. I included both an edited and a full-length version of the video in the article. The video shows soldiers just after the blast claiming to have watched the tank fire on them. Then a sergeant attempts to report over a radio that a U.S. tank killed his men. He seems to be promptly overruled by a superior officer who is not at the scene. An official Army investigation then found that the simultaneous impact of two enemy mortars killed the men."

The helmet cam video capturing the scene appears below. It contains coarse language and graphic violence.