- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 15, 2009

FORT STEWART, Ga. | An Army sergeant, his face lit by the muzzle flash of his rifle, chased a superior at their base in Iraq until the man fell, then stood over him and fired two shots into him, a soldier in their unit testified Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. John Dresel was the first American soldier to testify that he witnessed Sgt. Joseph Bozicevich shoot a fellow soldier during Sgt. Bozicevich's Article 32 hearing, which entered its second day Tuesday. The hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, will determine whether there's enough evidence to try the case in a court-martial.

Sgt. Bozicevich, 39, of Minneapolis is charged with killing a fellow team leader in his unit, Sgt. Wesley Durbin, and their squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, whom Sgt. Dresel said fell to the ground pleading before Sgt. Bozicevich shot him twice on Sept. 14 at a small U.S. patrol base south of Baghdad.

On Monday, witnesses testified that the two slain soldiers had been giving Sgt. Bozicevich a critique about performance problems before he shot them. The platoon leader, 1st Lt. Ryan Daly, testified that Sgt. Dawson was pulling Sgt. Bozicevich off patrol duty after he left a soldier behind during a foot patrol the night before. Sgt. Bozicevich had another problem a few hours earlier, when he lost one of his grenades and couldn't find it.

Sgt. Dresel said he ran toward the sound of gunfire at the base when shooting broke out about 1 a.m. He saw Sgt. Dawson lying on the ground and Sgt. Bozicevich, armed with a rifle, running until he stood over him a few feet away.

“As I'm seeing Sgt. Bozicevich, he's saying, '[Expletive], I'm going to kill you,' ” Sgt. Dresel said. “Pow! I could see the muzzle flash. … When the muzzle flash came up, I could see his face. You could just see the expression on his face, angry and wild.”

As Sgt. Bozicevich fired his rifle, Sgt. Dresel said, 24-year-old Sgt. Dawson of Pensacola, Fla., was “begging him to stop” and yelling “Why? Why?”

Sgt. Dresel, a former high school wrestling champion, said he tackled Sgt. Bozicevich, flipped him over face-down on the ground and began driving his face into the dirt and rocks as he struggled to get back up.

Sgt. Durbin, 26, of Dallas was found at a nearby security station where he lay against a wall, blood pooling around him from gunshots to his neck and chest.

Sgt. Jesse Everson, one of the soldiers who found Sgt. Durbin, said he was so badly wounded there was little he could do but kneel by his side and pray.

“I put my right hand on his forehead,” Sgt. Everson said. “He was cold, he was blue. His eyes were rolled back in his head.”

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