At an Article 32 preliminary hearing Thursday for Marine Sgt. Ryan Weemer, above, he and Sgt. Jermaine Nelson were heard on taped interviews telling how they and a third Marine killed four prisoners during the battle for Fallouja in late 2004.
It was some of the most graphic (and profane) testimony heard at one of the many hearings at Camp Pendleton involving allegations of misconduct in Iraq.
Weemer, 25, and Nelson, 26, face murder charges in the military system; former Sgt. Jose Nazario, 27, is charged with manslaughter in federal court in Riverside.
Nelson, in an interview with a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, said that Nazario told him, “I’m not doing this [expletive] all my myself. You’re doing one and Weemer is doing one.”
Nelson added that he watched as Nazario shot a handcuffed 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.”
Then it was Weemer’s turn, Nelson said, to kill a prisoner with his service pistol: “He shot him and the dude was on the ground and rolling, and [Weemer] was shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting.”
In a job interview with the Secret Service, Weemer is heard saying that there were several instances of Marines killing prisoners during the fight for Fallouja. His comments during the 2006 interview sparked the investigation that led to criminal charges against the three.
Weemer, once praised as a hero by the Marine Corps, now faces murder and dereliction of duty charges. He told the interviewer that the Marines did not have time to process the prisoners because they needed to support other Marines sweeping the insurgent stronghold.
Weemer, in his interview, said his platoon had been ordered to storm the house the insurgents were in as a way to “get our heads back in the game” after a Marine had been killed earlier in the day by an insurgent sniper.
After the preliminary hearing, the hearing officer will recommend to Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland whether the case should go to a court-martial.
During his interview, Nelson said that he had been bothered by the killings and seen the faces of the dead prisoners in his dreams.
— Tony Perry, at Camp Pendleton
Photo: Sgt. Ryan Weemer entering the courtroom for his preliminary hearing. Credit: San Diego Union-Tribune.