The leader of an Army special forces team “grinned” as he held the ear of an Afghan man he suspected of being an insurgent after he shot him and left his body in the desert, a Green Beret testified Tuesday.
The testimony by Sgt. 1st Class Ricky Derring came at a military hearing for his team leader, Master Sgt. Joseph D. Newell, who could face court martial on a murder charge in the March 5 killing of the Afghan civilian.
Derring said Newell returned to the spot where he left the man's body and “made a stabbing motion and I could see his arms cutting.” Newell then walked back to the team's vehicle with the man's ear in his hand, Derring said.
“He shook the ear and grinned,” Derring said.
Under cross examination by Newell's civilian attorney Todd Conormon, Derring said he didn't actually see Newell cut off the man's ear.
Derring said his team was escorting a convoy in Helmand province when they spotted two civilian cars. The soldiers fired a warning shot and went to investigate.
Derring, a 50-caliber machine gunner on the team, said Newell asked the man through an interpreter whether he was an insurgent or had improvised explosive devices. He questioned him about a photo of a weapon on his cell phone and whether he was part of the Taliban. Derring said the man answered no. But Derring said he, Newell and the interpreter believed the man was an insurgent because Taliban forces often use cell phones to call in their locations.
Newell drew his gun and shot him, left him in the desert, then returned and cut off his ear, Derring testified.