Camp Pendleton Marines from a platoon that killed 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in 2005 operated as best they could in an uncertain environment, the platoon's commander testified Tuesday.
Lt. William Kallop testified under a grant of immunity in an Article 32 hearing for Capt. Randy W. Stone, one of eight Marines charged in connection with the deaths of the civilians.
Kallop testified that he was the first officer on the scene in Haditha. The witness said he immediately ordered squad leader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich to clear the area.
Kallop said Wuterich knew the rules of engagement, and there was no reason to question his judgment at the time.
"He's proficient. He's a good Marine," Kallop said of Wuterich.
Kallop said that when he first went to the scene, he saw a family of 10 to 15 people who had been killed at a house.
"I wasn't counting bodies and I wasn't looking around," he said. "I saw a little boy moving in the corner of the room."
Kallop told the investigating officer at the hearing, Maj. Thomas McCann, what he did after he saw the carnage.
"The only thing I thought, sir, (was) why aren't there any insurgents here?" the witness told the investigator.
Kallop said he didn't see anything that should have been investigated.
Stone, the legal adviser for the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment, faces a maximum of two years confinement, dismissal from the service and forfeiture of all pay if convicted of one count of violating a lawful order.
He faces up to six months in the brig, dismissal from the service and forfeiture of pay if convicted of willful dereliction of duty.
Three others are suspected of trying to cover up after the fact.
Three servicemen, including Wuterich, are charged with murder for allegedly participating in the killings.
Murder charges were dropped last month against Sgt. Sanick P. Dela Cruz, and prosecutors have granted immunity to at least seven Marines in the case.
Several squad members allegedly went on the killing spree on Nov. 19, 2005, after a fellow Marine -- Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas -- died in a roadside bomb explosion.
Wuterich has acknowledged ordering the shooting of the five Iraqis who emerged from the taxi and ordering the assault of homes where 19 other Iraqi civilians were killed.
The accused Marines have insisted they were countering insurgents attacking them from a nearby house.
About 10 of the two dozen dead Iraqis were women and children who appeared to have been killed from close range, according to one investigation.
Wuterich and attorneys for other Marines accused in the case have said the killings were within the military's rules of engagement.
Charles Gittins, a civilian attorney for Stone, said outside court that his client didn't have to investigate the incident in Haditha.
During a break in the Article 32 hearing, Gittins said Stone "did his duty" and that the Haditha investigation began after a "bad article from Time Magazine was going to make the Marines look bad."
The attorney said the decision to charge Stone "was like throwing darts at a dart board."
Stone's Article 32 hearing -- similar to a preliminary hearing or probable cause hearing in civilian court -- is scheduled to last four days.
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