Marine's graphic interview describes killing of prisoners in Iraq

Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, in a tape-recorded interview, says he and a fellow sergeant were ordered to kill the prisoners during a sweep through a Fallouja neighborhood in 2004.
By Tony Perry

Los Angeles Times
Jul. 17, 2008

CAMP PENDLETON -- A graphic, vulgarity-laced interview in which a Marine described how he and two other Marines killed four unarmed prisoners in Iraq was played today during a preliminary hearing in the case.

Sgt. Jermaine Nelson, in a tape-recorded interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, said he and Sgt. Ryan Weemer were ordered by Sgt. Jose Nazario to kill the prisoners as the Marines swept through a neighborhood in Fallouja in late 2004.

Several minutes of the tape were played at the hearing for Weemer, who faces murder and dereliction of duty charges. Nelson faces similar charges, and Nazario faces manslaughter charges in federal court in Riverside.

Nelson told the investigator that Nazario told him, "I'm not doing all this [expletive] by myself. You're doing one and Weemer is doing one."

Nelson said that he watched in shock as Nazario shot a kneeling prisoner at point-blank range: "He hit the dude in the forehead, the dude went down and there was blood . . . all over his [Nazario's] boots."

Weemer then used his service pistol to shoot one of the prisoners, Nelson said. "He shot him and the dude was on the ground and rolling and [Weemer] was shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting."

The case began when Weemer, who had left the Marine Corps, told a job interviewer from the Secret Service about the killings. The Marine Corps recalled him to active-duty so he could be charged.

Nelson and Weemer, in their interviews, said that Nazario ordered the killings after getting a radio message from a superior that ordered the Marines not to take time to process the prisoners according to the rules. The Marines were needed to support other Marines sweeping through the insurgent-held city, Weemer said in his interview.

A hearing officer, at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, will recommend to Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland whether the case should go to court martial, be dropped or be handled through an administrative procedure.

After seeing Weemer and Nazario shot prisoners, Nelson said he lost his reluctance to join in the killings. "I said [expletive] and I shot my dude."

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