Witness testifies that officers told troops to ‘crank up the violence level’ before the slaying of a civilian in Hamandiya.
CAMP PENDLETON — A Marine corporal, testifying Saturday at the murder trial of a buddy, said that Marines in his unit began routinely beating Iraqis after being ordered by officers to “crank up the violence level.”
Cpl. Saul H. Lopezromo said Marines in his platoon, including the defendant, Cpl. Trent D. Thomas, were angry when officers criticized them as not being as tough as other Marine platoons.
“We’re all hard-chargers, we’re not there to mess around, so we took it as an insult,” Lopezromo said.
Within weeks of allegedly being scolded, seven Marines and a Navy corpsman went out late one night to find and kill a suspected insurgent in the village of Hamandiya near the Abu Ghraib prison. The Marines and corpsman were from 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment.
Lopezromo said their target was known to his neighbors as the “prince of jihad” and had been arrested several times, only to be released by the Iraqi legal system.
Unable to find their target, the Marines and corpsman dragged another man from his house, fatally shot him, and then planted an AK-47 assault rifle near the body to make it look like he had been killed in a shootout, according to court testimony.