Dad says Army ‘broke’ Iraq shooting suspect

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SHERMAN, Texas (AP) | The Army sergeant accused of killing five fellow servicemen in Iraq, including one from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was typically not a violent person, but counselors “broke” him before the gunfire erupted in a military stress center, his father said Tuesday.

Wilburn C. Russell, 73, told reporters that his son, Sgt. John M. Russell, was treated poorly at the stress center and had e-mailed his wife, calling two recent days the worst in his life.

“I hate what that boy did,” said the elder Mr. Russell, speaking in front of the two-story suburban home his son was purchasing. “He thought it was justified. That’s never a solution.”

In Maryland, Shawna Machlinski said two men from the Army came to her home early Tuesday to tell her that her son, Pfc. Michael E. Yates Jr., was one of the five killed.

She said she last spoke to her son on Mother’s Day, and that he had talked about Sgt. Russell. She said her son got along with Sgt. Russell, but told her “this guy’s got issues.”

Her son had been at the clinic about five days when the fatal shootings occurred, she said.

Sgt. Russell, 44, has been charged with murder and aggravated assault in the Baghdad slayings Monday, which his father said came just weeks before the end of Sgt. Russell’s third tour of duty in Iraq.

His father said Sgt. Russell, an electronics technician, was at the stress center to transition out of active duty. He said his son was undergoing stressful mental tests that he didn’t understand were merely tests, “so they broke him.”

“His life was over as far as he was concerned. He lived for the military,” the elder Mr. Russell said. “We’re sorry for the families, too. It shouldn’t have happened.

“He’s not a violent person,” he said. “For this to happen, it had to be something going on that the Army’s not telling us about.”

Sgt. Russell grew up in rural Grayson County and graduated from high school in 1985. He entered the Army National Guard in 1988 and served until going on active duty in 1994.

He lives with his wife in Germany, where he has been for the past 10 to 15 years, but comes home a couple times a year, his father said.

The Pentagon identified another of the five victims of the shootings as Navy Cmdr. Charles K. Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C. Cmdr. Springle’s family in Beaufort, N.C., declined to comment.

Late Tuesday, the executive director of the Texas Panhandle Mental Health and Mental Retardation clinic in Amarillo said a psychiatrist from there was killed in the shootings.

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