To the Marines who served with Sgt. Manuel Loggins Jr., it would have been an injustice to stay quiet.
So, in a move that broke with the military’s tradition, Sgt. Loggins‘ commanding officer at California’s Camp Pendleton publicly rebuked civilian authorities in neighboring Orange County for their handling of the investigation into the Feb. 7 fatal shooting by a deputy of the highly esteemed Marine.
Many Marines have been investigated by police and had their behavior publicly dissected by civilian prosecutors in high-profile cases. Only weeks before Sgt. Loggins‘ death, a former Camp Pendleton Marine was arrested in the killing of four homeless men in Orange County.
Marines are known for having each other’s backs on the battlefield. But when they get into trouble back home while off base, the military tends to step aside while police investigate.
Marines say this time was different. Fellow servicemen have described Loggins as a devout Christian man who was dedicated to his pregnant wife and three children - and was nothing like the picture painted by law enforcement.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs has said Sgt. Loggins plowed a vehicle through a gate at San Clemente High School at 4:30 a.m., and then got out as his 9- and 14-year-old daughters could be heard screaming in the SUV.
The association said the girls told sheriff’s personnel their father had been acting oddly, while Sgt. Loggins could be heard in a nearby field yelling irrational statements. When Sgt. Loggins returned, he ignored warnings by deputies not to start the SUV and a deputy then shot him, fearing for the children’s safety, the statement said.
Sgt. Loggins‘ commanding officer, Col. Nicholas Marano, countered with a scathing statement to the media: “While I am confident they will do the right thing in the end, I am less than satisfied with the official response from the City of San Clemente and Orange County. Many of the statements made concerning Manny Loggins’ character over the past few days are incorrect and deeply hurtful to an already grieving family.”
The words were especially searing given the military’s close relationship with law enforcement agencies - many of which are made up of former service members - and the fact that the investigation was in its initial stages. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which is leading the probe, declined to comment.
“We’re glad he stepped up and made a statement over the way this has been handled,” he said. “Everybody reads the report presented by the Orange County officials. Obviously it contradicts what we know to be the case about him. He was involved with his family. His relationship with his daughters was fantastic. They were a close family. To paint it any other way is not right.”
Col. Marano declined to talk to the news media after issuing his statement.
Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, also declined to speak to the Associated Press but his office stated: “Our statement was about the events of the morning of Feb. 7, 2012, and nothing more. We issued the facts not a commentary on the character of any individual in this case. We await the results of the independent investigation.”
The deputy, Darren Sandberg, served in the Marine Corps. Deputy Sandberg, a 15-year Sheriff’s Department veteran, is on leave.
The death has been difficult for the Marine community to accept because there are so many unanswered questions, Maj. Cox said.