A soldier charged with murdering an Iraqi civilian said he shot in defense of another soldier and he was not aware that the man was handcuffed and unarmed at the time.

"It was a reaction," Pfc. Edward L. Richmond Jr. (search) told The Honolulu Advertiser in a telephone interview from Kirkuk. "I fired in self-defense of another soldier, in which deadly force is authorized."

Richmond, 20, of Gonzales, La., is accused of shooting Muhamad Husain Kadir (search) on Feb. 28 during a roundup of suspected terrorists in al-Hawijah, a city southeast of Kirkuk (search).

He told the newspaper that Kadir resisted violently when his partner tried to detain him. Richmond said he shot Kadir in the head when he lunged at his partner.

Kadir had not been searched and Richmond said he could not see during the struggle that Kadir had been cuffed, he said.

Richmond is based at Hawaii's Schofield Barracks. Army spokesman Maj. Neal O'Brien declined to comment.

Richmond also told the newspaper that before his convoy went on patrol the day of the shooting, commanding officers in the convoy instructed soldiers to shoot detainees if they tried to run.

"They told us, 'If anybody tries to run today, shoot them.' That was put out before we even left," Richmond said. "As an E3, (private first class) it's not my place to question."

Richmond's court-martial is to start Aug. 1 in Tikrit. If convicted, he faces life in prison with the possibility of parole.