Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NASHVILLE, TENN. (AP) - A 101st Airborne Division officer who killed one of his soldiers in a friendly fire incident hasn’t been charged, the Army says, and the family of the man who died is angry no one has been held accountable.

The father of Pfc. David Sharrett of Oakton, Va., said he’s also upset that the officer, Capt. Timothy Hanson, was promoted from first lieutenant last month. The promotion, based on the officer’s overall record, came more than a year after an autopsy found Sharrett was killed by a bullet from Hanson’s weapon.

David Sharrett Sr. said Wednesday night he had to press the Army for information about his son’s death.

“Lt. Hanson shoots my son from a distance about 19 feet. Then he leaves my son on the battlefield, leaving no leader on the ground,” Sharrett said. “It was tactically a nightmare.”

The Army investigation found that nothing criminal happened when the soldiers tried to capture six insurgents near Balad on Jan. 16, 2008. Hanson received a reprimand that was not seen by the board that promoted him. Officials would not provide further details because it was a personnel matter.

“There were tragic mistakes made, but not criminal,” said Fort Campbell, Ky.-based spokeswoman Kelly Tyler.

The story was first reported Wednesday by National Public Radio and The New York Daily News.

Three soldiers, all from the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, were killed when an eight-man team surrounded a group of insurgents.

The other two soldiers _ Pfc. Danny L. Kimme of Fisher, Ill., and Spc. John P. Sigsbee of Waterville, N.Y. _ were killed by enemy fire, the investigation found. Two soldiers were wounded.

The investigation review, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, found several problems. The soldiers were told the insurgents were unarmed, and the U.S. troops had limited visibility using their night-vision goggles.

Some of the soldiers, including Sharrett, were not using infrared beacons that help distinguish soldiers from enemies.

The beacons also help pinpoint wounded soldiers. The investigation found that after the firefight ended, it took several minutes to find Sharrett in the dense vegetation. He later died at a combat hospital.

The investigation’s findings were approved by military commanders in Iraq and U.S. Central Command. If new evidence is found that could change the investigation’s outcome, the Army can review it.

Sharrett called the reprimand a “slap on the wrist.”

Two other soldiers who were involved in the firefight and not accused of wrongdoing were presented with Silver Stars by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. last month for fighting off the enemy and protecting other soldiers.

The Army told Sharrett’s widow and his parents nine days after his death that they were starting a friendly fire investigation, and the squadron’s commander, Lt. Col. Robert McCarthy, has spoken to the family multiple times in the past year, Tyler said.

Sharrett said McCarthy later denied it was a friendly fire death.

Both Hanson and McCarthy declined to comment Wednesday, Tyler said.

“There have been no efforts to conceal information from these families,” she said. “In fact, the unit has been exceedingly open with these families.”

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