FORT STEWART, Ga. (AP) — An Army sergeant, his face lit by the muzzle flash of his rifle, chased a superior officer at their base in Iraq until he fell, then stood over the man and fired two shots into him, a soldier in their unit testified Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. John Dresel was the first U.S. soldier to testify that he witnessed Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich shoot a fellow soldier during Bozicevich's Article 32 hearing, which entered its second day Tuesday.
Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis is charged with killing a fellow team leader in his unit, Sgt. Wesley Durbin, and their squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, whom Dresel said fell to the ground pleading before Bozicevich shot him twice Sept. 14 at a small U.S. patrol base south of Baghdad.
On Monday, witnesses testified that the two slain soldiers had been giving Bozicevich a critique about performance problems before he shot them. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. Ryan Daly, testified Dawson was pulling Bozicevich off patrol duty after he left a soldier behind during a foot patrol the night before. Bozicevich had another problem a few hours earlier, when he lost one of his grenades and couldn't find it.
The hearing at Fort Stewart, similar to a civilian grand jury, will determine if there's enough evidence to try the case in a court-martial. Testimony was scheduled to resume Wednesday.
Dresel said he ran toward the sound of gunfire at the base when shooting broke out at about 1 a.m. He saw Dawson lying on the ground and Bozicevich, armed with a rifle, running until he stood over him a few feet away.
"As I'm seeing Sgt. Bozicevich, he's saying, '(Expletive), I'm going to kill you,'" Dresel said. "POW! I could see the muzzle flash. ... When the muzzle flash came up, I could see his face. You could just see the expression on his face, angry and wild."
As Bozicevich fired his rifle, Dresel said, 24-year-old Dawson of Pensacola, Fla., was "begging him to stop" and yelling "Why? Why?"
Dresel, a former high school wrestling champion, said he tackled Bozicevich onto the ground, flipped him over face-down and began driving his face into the dirt and rocks as he struggled to get back up.
Durbin, 26, of Dallas was found at a nearby security station where he lay against a wall, blood pooling around him from gunshots to his neck and chest.
Sgt. Jesse Everson, one of the soldiers who found Durbin, said he was so badly wounded there was little he could do but kneel by his side and pray.
"I put my right hand on his forehead," Everson said. "He was cold, he was blue. His eyes were rolled back in his head."
Bad weather prevented an Army helicopter from flying the wounded men to a hospital. Soldiers drove them to an Army surgeon at a base 45-minutes away, where Durbin was pronounced dead. Dawson, who appeared to be in better condition, was transferred again to a combat field hospital in Baghdad, another 90 minutes away, where he died soon after arriving.
Durbin's parents and his wife, Brandi, sat in the courtroom hearing many details of how he and Dawson died, and the efforts to save them, for the first time.
"It's good to get some facts, because we've been waiting for that," Carole Durbin, the slain soldier's mother, said after testimony ended Tuesday. "But it's extremely difficult."
Recounting how Bozicevich acted as soldiers held him on the ground, Dresel said Bozicevich laughed and said, "I'm glad they're dead. Kill me."
"We didn't gag him," Dresel said. "We thought about it, because he was just making everybody go crazy wild, talking like he did."
Bozicevich's Defense attorney, Charles Gittins, asked Dresel why he never mentioned Bozicevich saying "I'm glad they're dead" in his typewritten account of the shootings given to military investigators the day after the shootings last year.
"You typed it very soon after the events, while they were still fresh in your mind, correct?" Gittins said.
Dresel said he'd been woken up from sleeping to write his statement, so he did it quickly so he could go back to bed. He said other soldiers heard Bozicevich's words as well.
Though several of the 12 soldiers who have testified mentioned hearing Bozicevich say "kill me," no one else has stated that Bozicevich said he was glad the two soldiers were dead.
Russ Bynum has covered the military based in Georgia since 2001.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.